Philosophy, Psychology, Nerdisms, Writing from the Trenches

Posts tagged “books

A word and a promise

I am so, so, so busy. The move is 4 days away? No, that’s wrong. 5? I don’t know. My brain is fritzing and I need a few more boxes.

I promise a full post in the near future.

Until then, read a book and tell me all about it in the comments section.


The Babbling Paradigm

Recently, at a book signing, an author told at story about meeting Sue Grafton.

This author was at a major publishing event, one of those ALA’s or RT’s or RWA conferences where authors at different stages of their careers hobnob with the other members of their profession.

You all know who Sue Grafton is, right? The Alphabet Mysteries? A is for Alibi? Chances are you’ve seen these wildly popular mysteries around. She’s a very popular author.

While Jane Author was hanging out, someone said to her, “Don’t look now, but Sue Grafton is standing right behind you.”

Like all self-respecting human beings would do in that situation, Jane whipped around and yelled, “SUE!” For the next few minutes, during which she was shaking Sue Grafton’s hand, Jane blabbed her way through the encounter and didn’t actually remember what was said.

Which brings me to my point:

Who, if you had the chance to meet them, would you absolutely flip your shit over?

During lunch (with the author), she laughed about her Sue Grafton encounter and admitted that she would do it again. I answered, “We all have someone we would so that to. It’s just finding that person.”

I think this is an interesting question. Everyone has someone they would become a babbling idiot over. In the recent Nerdist podcast, host Chris Hardwick admits that he got a little flustered when talking to Tina Fey. If Tina Fey made time in her schedule to hang out with me for an hour and a half, I might lose it a little bit myself.

We’ve all seen that moment when the little girl meets the Disney princess at Disney World. Her eyes light up, she gasps, she runs across the park paying no heed to what’s going on around her. She wants to tell her everything. She babbles.

We never really grow out of that phase.

I have my stock answers: Robert Downey, Jr. and J.J. Abrams, but I don’t know if that’s particularly true. I suppose I would actually have to meet them in order to know whether or not that’s true.

You’re Iron Man. I-you-you’re Iron Man.

When does the mere idea of a meeting person become life-changing?

At the same event, a girl hung back and waited a little, quiet and unassuming. She stood in line, got her books signed, and walked around the store until the rest of the crowd cleared out a bit and the authors were left alone, signing stock and making plans for later.

When the time was right, she walked up to one of the authors and asked, “Are you ____?”

Author: “Yes.”

Girl: “Did you write _____?”

Author: “Yes, I did.”

Girl: “It’s one of my favorite books! I read it, like, a year ago and I want to read it again every time I finish another book!” She became a babbling idiot.

What does it take to be the person on the other side? How do we accept that praise? It’s not just admiration, it’s adoration. It’s breathtaking to behold. As a storyteller, I can only pray that I can reach someone on that level. You can write it off, play it down in front of your peers, ignore it in front of your friends, but that has to be an amazing moment.

You changed someone.

And, in the end, that’s all we can ever hope for.


Defending The Hunger Games

Just because we like something does not mean that we shouldn’t be critical of it. In general, I like the United States Government. I reap the benefits of centralized government. This does not mean I should just sit back and let them do what they want because I generally agree. I need to remain critical of how the country is managed.

As far as The Hunger Games is concerned, it isn’t the most perfect book ever written. The sequel and third books are on my list, but I’m not rushing off anywhere to obtain a copy. The over-hyped movie has made me frustrated with social media, as it fills both my Facebook and Twitter feeds with such gems as “OMG!! NEW HUNGER GAMES TRAILER!!1!1!!!” over and over. Stop telling me it’s the next Harry Potter. Stop telling me it’s the next Twilight.

Isn’t there anything else going on? Can we talk about something else? Oh, God, now they mentioned Rick Santorum…

Surprisingly, that’s not what this post is about.

At work this weekend, I was sitting in the break room with two coworkers, let’s call them Jo and Abner. Abner asks if he should read The Hunger Games. Poor Abner. He has been swept away by the hype and believes he is missing out on some big secret that everyone else is in on. There is a chunk of cultural literacy missing from his brain. Additionally, Abner suffers from YAphobia (a form of genre-phobia) that means he won’t even open the cover of a book that is considered “Young Adult”. Abner isn’t alone. A great many people won’t venture out of their preferred genres.

(This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. As long as you’re reading, does it really matter what? Just be aware that you are most likely missing out on fantastic storytelling.)

Instead of letting Jo, who is quite taken with The Hunger Games, take over, I decided to offer a less biased viewpoint.

Me: “Do you want to read it?” This is essential. If you don’t want to read it, then don’t. If you don’t think you’ll enjoy it, don’t read it.

Abner: “What?”

“Do you want to read The Hunger Games?”

“I guess. I mean, the preview makes it look pretty weird.”

I explain that the thing that made it enjoyable (for me) was more concept than story. A group rebelled against the government, they lost, now the government kills the rebels’ children. Wait, no, it’s actually worse than that. The government takes their children, and forces the kids to kill each other while the entire nation watches. Oh, and guess what? Whoever wins gets to eat.

Yeah, when you put it that way, it’s really cool. Does that interest you? Evil governments kidnapping children and making them kill each other on national television? Where do I sign up?

Abner decided he’d take a look at it.

As I left the break room, Jo caught up with me and said, “So, you really did like it?”

“I told you I did.”

“But, then you criticized it.”

I think this is a problem, this idea that we can’t examine things we enjoy through a critical lens without being accused of hypocrisy. Let me point out that Harry Potter was just a kid and was almost killed at least once a year at the most secure place in the wizarding world, Dobby was the Jar Jar Binks of the HP film franchise, and Hermione was clearly a Ravenclaw.

Twilight…nope. I’m not going there.

But, hey, if you have some time and need something to read, go ahead and take a look at The Hunger Games.

Also, I think the movie will be fantastic.


The End is Nigh

I’m a little bit in love with rampant fatalism. Why is the idea of the end of the world so attractive? It seems like everyone wants to see humanity come to its inevitable end at the hand of some violent, foreseeable (preventable?) catastrophe.

And, I’m not just talking about the whole 2012 Mayan thing.

I think humanity can only exist with the looming threat of complete disaster. I mean it. Check here. We are constantly expecting the other shoe to drop. I suppose that makes the first shoe our existence in general.

I don’t believe that 2012 will be the end of humanity, Earth, the way we do things, what have you. I do wonder what the next big prediction will be after 2012 (*cough* moon breaking orbit *cough).

Instead of focusing on major catastrophe, though, I’d like to focus on the small ones that are expected in our lifetime (not ending in 2012). This list is courtesy of my mother forwarding me emails. I hit unsubscribe, but it hasn’t caught on.

6 Things that will Disappear in Our Lifetime

1. The Post Office

Really? Really. I will concede that the post office has been in financial trouble for a long time, but as far as being unsustainable, I’m not really sure that’s true. It’s funded by the government.

Regardless, here’s your call to action:

Save the Mail

Every week, go over your Tweets. Compile them into one convenient document and send them to your top twenty followers. All @replies should also be compiled and mailed directly to the intended recipient. I purpose this stamp.

2. The Check

I agree. This is useless. Dump it.

3. The Newspaper

Two words: coffee shops. What else are people going to glance at while they wait for their coffee?

Oh, and there’s nothing better to start a camp fire/cozy house fire with. Papier mache! Birdcages! Lining the table before commencing art projects! You don’t know what you’re talking about. The newspaper’s not going anywhere.

4. The Book

I’m not even going to take this one seriously.

5. The Land Line Telephone

Refer to answer for #2-The Check

6. Music

I could write a whole blog post on this alone. Disgruntled curmudgeons (read: old people) seem to get it in their heads that when the music they like is in decline, all of music is in decline. You are wrong. Music is a staple in human society. We have made music for thousands of years. We will always make music.

This is an example of putting business too close to art. It’s like saying, “If there aren’t any newspapers, there will be no news.”

That’s not how it works. Don’t equate an industry with the actual artistic expression.

You can argue all you want. Like I said, I love the fatalists, the doom-predictors, the naysayers. I also think you’re getting all worked up over nothing. And that’s exactly what our alien overlords intended.

Chill out, guys. We’re going to be fine.


Resolute: We Are Strong

That’s right.

Two weeks in, I’m giving you a New Year’s Resolution Post featuring (gratuitous capitalization)!

Let’s dive right in.

  1. Start/Join a band
  2. Don’t talk about “The-Book-That-Will-Not-Be-Named” or, more commonly, “You-Know-What”.
  3. Save up $10,000 to move to LA
  4. Punch anyone who says “You’re so young!”
  5. Be more Internet social
  6. Read 100 books.

Let’s go in depth!

1.  This one seems to always make it on my list. I have two electric guitars, an acoustic guitar, and a bass guitar. This just goes to show, having the equipment does not automatically get you into the band. Bummer. Drag. Total waste. Except I still play often, much to my parents discontent. I need to up my street cred. I need to brainstorm band names with a bunch of crazies. I need to get my writer friends to make this happen.

2.  Ah, The-Book-That-Will-Not-Be-Named. Any guesses? I’ll give you a hint. It may or may not have something to do with vampires that sparkle. I know some of you are going to get offended that I have decided to remove You-Know-What from my day-to-day conversation. This tome is an emotional lightning rod. Whenever it is brought up, voices are raised, teams are chosen, everyone gets excited, and I’m left sitting there, wondering what the Hell just happened. I’ve also found that most of my Harry Potter references are dropping off, too. Am I moving on with my life? Probably not, but if you want to talk (argue) about Twilight, take it somewhere else. Life’s too short.

3. Oh, yeah. THIS one. I have three jobs now. One with a television network, one at Barnes & Noble, and now contract work writing for a social media company. I’m going to be a better blogger whether I like it or not because I’m getting PAID! The whole “moving to LA” thing is this nebulous lurking glob on the horizon.

I’m getting erased from people’s minds.

I’m freaking out a little bit.

I’m going to be a television writer.

4.  People: Stop saying “you’re so young”. This is a meaningless statement. Would you like me to say, “You’re so old?” No. The answer is no. Besides, the “you’re so young” is not complementary, because you are inferring immaturity and a lack of patience. I am not too young to pursue my dream. No one is ever too young or too old to do that.

5.  In the last year or two, I’ve tended to be more of a poster than an interactor. This changes! I will respond to people’s tweets, even if they have no idea who I am! I will put crap up on Google+, even though no one will see it! I will approach social media the way it was intended! The spirit of the conversation!

6. This is another one of those things that always makes it on the list. Last year, I read 65. To be fair, I was quite busy with a new job at the beginning of the year, as well as being disgruntled with the world in general. I didn’t finish reading a book until March. This year, I have my Goodreads goal set and they will be coming for me if I don’t make it. I’ve already knocked two down. We’ll see what happens.


Open Book

I want to talk about reading.

Not as a writer.

As a reader.

Because I will never be able to quantify the vast amounts of information I have learned through the simple (amazingly complex) process of reading.

I was able to read before I started 1st grade. I’m not sure what caused this. Perhaps it was a push from my parents, or maybe just the desire of wanting to imitate what they were doing. My parents read constantly. There were always books in our home, and we were encouraged to read.

This is a photo of me on the day I was allowed to get a library card:

I could make up something about how this was before the age of computer games and the Internet, but that would be a lie. I learned how to type with Mario Teaches Typing. I played Reader Rabbit. I was a Math Blaster pro. These weren’t just in my home, they were at school.

My mother is a substitute teacher, and I asked her how her day was.

“Such and so can’t read.”

“Oh. Okay.”

“She sat at her desk and cried all day because she can’t read.”

“What does that-”

“I was teaching 3rd grade.”

My brain audibly ground to a halt as I tried to force this into some kind of perspective that related to me. This is truly cognitive dissonance. I know, on an intellectual level, that people don’t know how to read. I have not met these people. And, for the first time, I really started to think about how much knowledge, pleasure, joy, and heartbreak they don’t have access to.

I’m just trying to work this out in my head, and it ended up on my blog.

The movie is never as good as the book.

There are people out there who will never know Harry Potter, or Winnie the Pooh and Piglet, or Harold and his Purple Crayon the same way I do.

I wish there was some way I could fix that.


A Journey Restarted

I have returned to The Fantastic World of Barnes & Noble (or the Nobley, for you who are savvy to the lingo). I’ve worked at B&N for upwards of three years, alternating between seasonal employ and full time. The last stint was a solid two year, full-time block that ended January 2nd of this year.

Let me tell you, I was ready to leave. I had a new job at a startup that looked promising, I was flexing my creative muscle to the point where my words were appearing on television (yeah, promos!). It was thrilling. I refused to enter my local bookstore for several months, holding on to my experience as only the righteously indignant can. I had my Nook. I had the library. I didn’t need to visit a store. Then, a friend of mine had a booksigning at a different but reachable B&N.

Since I’m so altruistic (insert chortle), I swallowed my foolish pride, pulled up my big girl panties, and stopped acting like a total wad.

It’s funny how often I need to do that.

Regardless of the burgeoning Texas heat, the door handle was still chill to the touch, promising an over-cooled environment on the inside. My moment of hesitation was short-lived, as a short, middle-aged man on the other side had no interest in waiting for me to rip the door open. I took a deep breath and entered. The dusky smell of thousands of pages washed over me, caught on the breeze of the air conditioning.

As I entered the B&N, a dribble of drool rolled down my chin as I stared at the shelves and shelves of books. That same old feeling started at the base of my spine and worked its way up into my brain. No matter how fast I read, no matter how much I tried, I would never, ever be able to read all these books. It was like the first time I ever entered a bookstore, but, somehow, so much more.

You see, back in the old days, I was trained in every department. Nook, music, even receiving in the back room. It was like I had returned to my home country. I knew this place, I fit in here, I could wax idiotic with the staff and they recognized me as a familiar traveler, if not a native of their local village. But, something was (and still is) missing. If this was the hero’s quest, what elixir had I returned with? Had a gained some knowledge in the last few months? Did I bring hope to the ones on the inside? I had missed an essential step in personal character growth and made a misstep along my journey.

In some ways, it didn’t matter. For me, the magic had been restored in the bookstore. I could return to my old place of employment without shame.

As it is wont to do, my financial situation became increasingly unstable. While I hadn’t locked my future into a startup, I had hoped it would provide a stable source of income for a year until I had saved up enough to move on.

Ho ho, not so. The time came when I realized I had to get a second job in order to stockpile any money. I cooked up a big humble pie and reapplied to my old job. They were more than happy to welcome me back into the fold.

Sometimes I think my life is a sitcom. It’s funny, it’s tragic, and nothing ever changes.

But, what if I want the hero’s journey? When does this girl get to leave the farm to pursue her destiny? Why am I so upset that real life doesn’t work out the way stories do?

It’s not too late to begin my epic quest, and it’s not like I don’t have options. But, it feels like I had almost hit the main road with my questing companions, only to realize I had to turn back because I forgot to pack my magic sword.


Aside

Book Breakdown: Little Brother

Do you ever feel like someone is watching you?

I’m talking about something more frightening than lolcats (not that lolcats aren’t terrifying)…

Anyway, thanks to Cory Doctorow, I’ve spent the last two days in a state of look-over-the-shoulder paranoia.

In the best possible way.

Time for a

Book Breakdown

(like they’re watching you. [Right now.])

Little Brother

It seems that quite a bit of dystopian sci-fi these days aren’t really plausible or even possible. In Little Brother, Doctorow builds a world that’s real enough to cause paranoia before you turn the lights out at night.

Cory Doctorow takes us inside a world of high school hackers. After a terrorist attack, San Francisco is under martial law. Everyone is monitored, everyone is watched, the Department of Homeland Security is off its leash.

Marcus Yallow uses all the technology at his disposal to mess with the government. When Big Brother is watching, who watches back? Little Brother. A wonderful, appropriate homage to George Orwell’s 1984.

While the political message is there, Doctorow tries to focus on the technological side of Yallow’s revolution, sometimes in long, meandering passages of techno-speak.

Some chapters got off point a time or two, and a few moments seemed out of character.

Little Brother is solid, disturbing, and deep. Not a light read, by any means, in the best possible way.


Aside

Books, GoodReads, and Why I’m Still Awake

Aight, peeps, here’s the lowdown, the skinny, the 411, the…you know, whatever.

All of a sudden, I have insomnia all the freakin’ time. I wake up the same time every morning (9am), but it seems like I can’t get to sleep any time before 3am.

What do I do with all this time?

Besides obsessively changing my web page theme in an attempt to find something that doesn’t make me gag; besides listening to hours of New Age music on Pandora; besides applying droplets to my eyes because of all these backlit screens…

I read.

A lot.

Like, 13 books in the last 17 days. That’s non-fiction, adult, YA (no picture books).

What does that mean for you?

I don’t always review books, but, when I do, it’s because I liked them.

I can’t review everything. But, trust me, if I make it through the whole book, that means I liked it.

So, for those of you interested in following my eccentric/eclectic tastes, I’ve decided to be a good little social networker and keep my GoodReads profile updated.

Is this some sort of underhanded, sneaky way of encouraging people to read?

Yes.

But, it’s also some sort of underhanded, sneaky way of encouraging people to talk about books, consider what they like, and find more books that they will like just as much.

Heck, if you see something on my list and trust me for a recommendation, I’ll tell you what I thought.

In private. Because I just might know the author who wrote it :/

Stay thirsty, my friends.


Aside

Why I Read YA

It seems every few weeks, someone says something misguided or general about the Young Adult section at the local library/bookstore. While I usually miss the inciting incident, I enjoy pouring myself a bowl of Rice Krispies and sliding into my front row seat on TweetDeck to watch the publishing industry retaliate.

Have I ever mentioned I love social media?

#YAShowdown was the more amusing hashtag, while #YASaves was more of an emotional outpouring, trumpeting the lessons and triumphs, the sights we saw, the scents we smelled, the roads we traveled when traversing some of our favorite stories considered: “Young Adult”.

I’m not a teen. I’m not a parent. I’m not a high school librarian.

So, why do I read YA?

It’s good.

No, I mean, it’s really good.

It’s well-written. There’s a story. The characters are compelling. The styles are diverse. It wants to take risks in the good way.

Life isn’t candy-coated, sugar-sweet, let’s all go to the prom and be happy.

Life is hard. It sucks. We weren’t born with an instruction manual. People make mistakes. Reality is tough and it doesn’t wait for you to be an adult to start throwing curveballs.

Why wait in literature?

My mother read A Wrinkle in Time to my siblings and I at the dinner table when I was a youngling.

My favorite section in the library was that little corner with the crusty sign above that said “TEEN” with half the “N” scratched off. I go to the library now and see their WHOLE ROOM dedicated to young adult literature, and there’s a prickle in my eyes as I try to imagine what it would have been like to have that many books way back when.

I love it. I love the voice. I love the stories. I love the characters. 

I even love the covers.

So, that’s it. No great insights.

You either get YA or you don’t. Find something you like, nay, love, and tell everyone about it.

Because reading is awesome.


Aside

Soapbox Podium Thumping – eBooks

*shuffle shuffle shuffle* SQUEAK! *clears throat and steps onto soapbox*

I’m about to pontificate, so feel free to ignore my opinion.

I stumbled across something I’m not going to link to because I don’t want to support the cause, even indirectly, but I want to be clear.

eBooks should not be the be-all-end-all direction of the publishing industry.

I know what you’re thinking, “Kate, you have mentioned on your blog several times how much you love your nook, and your iPad. You are addicted to gadgets. How can you say such things?”

I love eBooks. I love my nook. These things are true.

But, unless it’s an actual, physical book at some point in its history, I have a hard time taking it seriously for the simple fact that an author can’t sign it.

Every time I see that scene in Beauty & the Beast, when he shows Belle the library, my heart races, my pupils dilate, and a little voice in my head sings, “I want to go to there”. If I’m ever rich enough to build my own house, that library, be it physically possible, will make the final blueprint. You better believe there will be a track ladder. 

I suggested an author to a friend. Said author has a new book coming out soon, which I also drew to the attention of aforementioned friend. This author is someone who I know and have spent time with. Friend freaked out.

Squees, all caps on Facebook, I was thrilled, thinking, “Awesome. She’ll enjoy a good read, as all people of the world should.” Then I got this note.

“What’s your address? Will she sign stuff?”

Um. Well. Yeah, I guess. I mean, why else would you become an author if you couldn’t sign a body part…er…flyleaf or two?

Now, imagine you meet J.K. Rowling (in a parallel universe where Harry Potter is available on eBook). Would you have her sign your nook? I mean, come on. That’s not really the same. You could add a digital flyleaf in an iPad app, but it’s not the same.

As I am clearly the conflicted character in this novel, I’m going to tell you right now: if there were seven books that I could have with me at all times, the Harry Potter series would make that list in a heartbeat (maybe not all of it, but still).

eBooks rock portability, and, coupled with an eInk screen, things look pretty good. But there are some things that you need to see in hard copy.

There are some pages you need to thumb through.

There are some things that you need to get signed, if only to show off to your friends who don’t happen to eat pancakes with awesome authors.

If you’ve ever been to a book signing or plan on going to one, hold that book in your hand and think about this: without that person sitting at the table at the front of that line, this thing – this gigantic, momentous bundle of cardboard, paper, and ink squeezed by your hot, little hands that took you to a place you’d never been – would not exist without them.

You are holding a piece of someone’s soul and it’s not trapped in a little computer box.

It’s contained in this thing that you can give to your mother when she’s lonely. Or, you can read to your son when he’s sick. Or, you can rediscover when you’re swinging from your track ladder on a rainy Sunday evening.


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