Destination: Florida

Hello, readers!

Lets all take a deep breath and smell that fresh Monday smell. It’s a combination of fresh cut grass, dew, and soul decay. A tantalizing bouquet, no?

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We’ve made it to Florida, you guys! I’ve actually been to Florida a few times, haven’t been there in years though. I think the last time I was there we spent New Year’s Eve at Epcot and that was awesome! I highly recommend it, if you get the chance. Each pavilion had a party with different music, the fireworks went on forever. Good times. Although, you have to get there really early and dress yourself in the color of so much fucking patience. Buddha level peace, my friends. But it was worth it in the end.

anansi_boysI ended up reading Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman for Florida. And, although a lot of the action takes place in England and the Caribbean, there’s a back and forth happening with Florida. Anansi Boys is the story of Charlie who after attending his father’s funeral finds out he has a brother he didn’t know about. Oh and also that his dad was a god and his brother got all the powers. With his brother in his life, Charlie’s life gets turned upside down, sideways, inside out, thrown into another dimension. Shit gets real, you guys.

I’ve always loved Neil Gaiman (The Ocean at the End of the Lane, get on it!), his writing is always simple, but incredibly engaging and entirely his own. There’s no way to mistake him for someone else and that’s awesome to me. He has a way of taking seemingly random, ordinary things and imbuing them with importance and meaning. Anansi Boys had that in the form of a lime. Charlie is visiting Saint Andrews, looking for a very old lady to help with all the problems he’d gotten himself into. Along the way he acquired a lime, and after this interaction….

“Do you have any luggage?”

“No,” said Fat Charlie, apologetically.

“Nothing?”

“Nothing. Just this lime.”

He filled out several forms, and she gave him a key and directions to his room.

Fat Charlie was in the bath when a knock came on the door. He wrapped a towel around his midriff. It was the bellman. “You left your lime in reception,” he said, and handed it to Fat Charlie.

“Thanks,” said Fat Charlie. He went back to his bath. Afterward, he went to bed, and dreamed uncomfortable dreams.”

Charlie became known as the guy with the lime. And that lime later became a fake engagement ring, chapters later. I think it takes a lot of elegance to turn something as innocuous and turn it into an engagement ring, in a way that you would’ve been surprised if the lime hadn’t been used as one.

The rest of the book is like that, full of graceful writing and funny situations. It’s witty, charming, and as imaginative as only Neil Gaiman can be. It’s got gods, cops, ghosts, and, of course, a lime. Definitely worth a read if you’re into awesome things.

Until next time, readers!

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Frank Peretti & Ted Dekker’s House

Hello, readers.

In an attempt to streamline my process I’ve decided to focus on the book for each destination rather than make two posts for each. If I don’t like it or if I start feeling like I miss the Destination posts I’ll take them back up. We’ll see. The world is our oyster. Maybe we can have our cake and eat it too. The early bird gets the worm. What?

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We’ve made it to Alabama! Resting place of Miss Baker, monkey astronaut. Apparently she was the first US animal to make it to space and return alive. She died in 1984 after having been married twice, well on her way to challenging Ross’ number of marriages. Her grave is located in Huntsville, Alabama, outside of the U.S. Space & Rocket Center.

My pick for Alabama ended up being House by Frank Peretti and Ted Dekker, which I’d actually read before. However, since I barely remembered what happened in the book, I figured why not revisit it? And, while it didn’t disappoint, it also wasn’t as exciting as I remembered it to be. I think the religious overtones rubbed me the wrong way this time around.

The novel follows two couples as they get stranded in the middle of nowhere Alabama, next to a conveniently placed inn. Just as they’re realizing their hosts aren’t all there, the lights go out and they’re locked in by a man who demands one dead body before dawn or he’ll kill everybody. It quickly becomes apparent that they’re dealing with supernatural forces and a house that is very much alive and working against them. In the end, the whole thing devolves into a fight between good and evil within each character which will determine whether or not they get out of the house alive.

I’d forgotten how in the end it all came down to the good and bad that resided in each of them. They realized the house drew power from the evil inside them and that the people they kept fighting were actually themselves. It was pretty disappointing that the whole novel ended in this sort of find god and be saved sort of deal. I would’ve liked to see them work through their issues or find that actually there was good enmeshed with the bad. Or maybe they could’ve realized how insane it is to spend your life constantly fighting and sabotaging yourself. Because that’s kind of what we go through day to day, no?

We get caught up in our mistakes, the things we didn’t do or say and the ones we did when we shouldn’t have, when we should be working to make ourselves better. And I know how cheesy that sounds, but it’s true. We fight ourselves and each other every step of the way, instead of sifting through the rubble in our minds to help us improve and accepting help from the people around us.

Fighting ourselves – our desires, our past, our instincts – ultimately leads to a sort of painful death where we lose sight of who we really are and what we could be. Maybe the key is to see and accept ourselves, changing the bad and improving the good, so that we can put our demons to rest. And maybe get out of the House alive.

Until next time, readers.

Kate Chopin’s The Awakening

Hello, readers.

Swiftly turned into snail’s pace. The Awakening was nothing close to what I expected. And it took me a lot longer to read because of it. It’s one of those books where nothing quite happens. The driving force behind the book resides within Edna, our main character. Basically, the book deals with her “awakening” as a woman. Through an infatuation she taps not only into her sexuality, but also her independence. In the end though, rebuffed by the man she’s in love with, she surrenders herself to the sea. Whether it is actually a surrender or a final act of freedom isn’t specified, it’s up to the reader to decide.

When it was initially published, The Awakening caused quite a bit of scandal. Here was a woman who cheated on her husband, but more than that a woman who disobeyed her husband, wasn’t particularly devoted towards her children or willing to sacrifice for them, and who didn’t seem all too interested in maintaining her household. You can imagine people in 1899 were alarmed, to say the least, when confronted with such a woman. Even if the book felt like a drag for me, I’ve got to admit Edna was kind of a cool chick in that respect.

In the beginning of the book she learns to swim, after much coaching from everyone around her. It feels to me that after that first initial success she keeps on swimming, farther and farther away from everything she’s ever known. Shedding the numbness that had held her paralyzed in a conventional life to finally feel like she belonged to herself. That first time she finds herself so far from the shore she panics, overwhelmed by the notion that she’ll never be able to return. And even though she eventually made it back to dry land, the sea and that point of no return remained with her.

With her children being kept safe by their grandparents, her husband off at work, and the man she loved having left her, she returns to the water. I would venture to say that there was nowhere else for her to go, but back to the sea. I haven’t decided whether it’s a final act of freedom or a cowardly escape, but it makes sense to me for it to all end in the water.

If you’ve read The Awakening, I’d love to hear what you have to say about it. Let me know in the comments below. Until next time, readers!

Destination: Louisiana

Hello, hello readers.

We’re moving on (swiftly, I hope) on to our next destination. We’ve made it to Louisiana and in lieu of facts or trivia I want to share another story with you guys.

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This is actually one of my favorites short and sweet, I always enjoy reading it. Hate the ending, to death. Terrible pun intended. I’m talking about Kate Chopin’s The Story of an Hour. If you haven’t read it, it’s about how a wife reacts when she learns her husband died. If you haven’t, click on the link and read it so I don’t spoil for you. It’s really short, I promise!

I get this lady. She felt tied to a man she loved at one point, but no longer. And suddenly, she was free of that marital cage. Suddenly she was free to be an individual again, escaping the bonds of coupledom in favor of leading a life with her as the only priority. Granted, this freedom came at a steep price, but there really weren’t that many options were there? Death was better than divorce at this point.

And die is exactly what she did, when she saw her husband walk through the door. A joy that kills they said, but we know the truth. She died from the soul crushing realization that her freedom lasted all of a minute, possibly two. She died with the sound of locking cuffs and the weight of chains pulling her down. It’s pretty sad when you think about finally feeling like you have a chance and having it all taken away.

There’s something beautiful about suddenly feeling that free. Like the chains suddenly disintegrate and you’re free to stretch to your full height for the first time in years. It’s like finally walking out of the cave to stare at the sun – blinding and painful, but thrillingly bright. I think time and time again we limit ourselves in order not to hurt those around us, not to feel like we’re abandoning them. The reality though, is that staying still for someone else isn’t fair to anyone involved.

Every time I travel and my mother asks why I’m leaving her, I have to remember getting on that plane is something I have to do for myself. I know people who have postponed or full on cancelled plans for grad school because they can’t bear to leave their parents. At some point, you have to admit this whole overflowing with concern and affection is actually fear. Fear of being alone, of failing, of not being up to whatever task is in front of you. It’s easier to hide behind a veneer of devotion than accept you’ve peed your pants twice thinking of what’s next.

Settling down and settling in just so we don’t disturb everyone isn’t an option. Neither is dying out of frustration. Really, the only option, is to get up and go. Do whatever it is you feel needs to be done. In time your family/friends/significant others/whatever will understand, they might even be proud of you for taking the risk. I can guarantee you’ll at least be proud of yourself.

I’ll be proud of you, if that helps. I’m probably a figment of your imagination, so it probably doesn’t. Still.

You do you, readers. Until next time!

Truman Capote’s Other Voices, Other Rooms

Hello, readers!

othervoices-192x300I usually reserve Fridays for movies, but I just finished Other Voices, Other Rooms by Truman Capote. Who, by the way, was apparently 5’3 and occasionally wore opera capes. The book follows Joel Knox whose gets sent to live with his father in Mississippi after his mother dies and his absent father suddenly reappears via an imploring letter. Life in the Landing, where his father lives, is not what he expected at all. Starting with his father.

Everything that happens at the Landing has a sort of feverish dream quality, from effeminate cousin Randolph who lives in a dark decadent room waiting for death to Missouri Fever who lives expecting an old lover to return so he can kill her. Not to mention the twins, a magic wielding hermit, an unstable stepmother, and the midget towards the end, to name a few. As with A Rose for Emily, Capote’s first novel falls under the Southern Gothic category which is characterized by the use of the grotesque. And these characters certainly are, all of them have the feel of something misshapen, something not quite right.

The whole place feels like that, actually. The house is sinking, everything is bare and isolated, covered in moss and slightly dirty. Everywhere you look things are falling apart. And it’s in this atmosphere that Joel, not only “comes off age”, but comes out. It’s murky and vague, mainly because it happens in one scene, but it’s there. In the end, these people who weren’t shiny new in the beginning, lose what little light they might’ve had. Instead a sense of acceptance for what they cannot change settles over them. And it’s sad, you can almost see the moss growing over them, making them part of that desolate land.

Having bummed myself out saying that, it’s also worth mentioning that the imagery in this book is out of this world. He paints pictures that are hard to forget – moments where the air is green, and forgotten wheels going over rickety bridges.

“The redheaded girl and her loud gang were gone from sight, and the white afternoon was ripening towards the quiet time of day when the summer sky spills soft color over the drawn land.”

It’s worth a read, if only for images like that. Until next time, readers.

Cormac McCarthy’s Child of God

Hello, readers.

The sky has been falling for the past couple of days and I’ve got to say, I don’t hate it. Rain always makes me feel happy and cozy. Loved even. Like the world is wrapping me up in a chilly, wet embrace. That sounds disgusting and mildly terrifying, but it’s actually a really nice feeling.

child_of_god-largeTennessee beckons with Bluesy melodies. And necrophiles. Maybe not Tennessee, but Child of God certainly does. This was my first book by Cormac McCarthy and it left me feeling really peculiar. You follow Lester Ballard as he unravels, slowly losing touch if not with reality, then definitely with society. He loses his house, burns down the place he was squatting in. Eventually he moves into a cave, full of passageways and holes where he can stash the bodies of those he kills. After everyone find out he’s the one murdering people and force him to show them where the bodies are, he spends 3 days stuck in a hole, trying to dig his way out. Finally he dies in a hospital, alone. You get the sense he’d always been alone.

It’s the kind of book where you know things are happening, but you don’t quite feel like you’re moving. Then it’s all over and you’re left with a sort of restlessness, a kind of limbo experience. Honestly, it’s one of those feelings I hate in life, a kind of uncomfortable uncertainty that I have to learn to grapple with. It makes me just as uncomfortable in books, maybe even more because I can feel it building slowly, see it happening if you will.

Part of that unstable feeling comes from the fact that I kind of sympathize with Lester. I’m more affected by the touches of humanity than by the horrible things that happen in the novel. He kills people, fucks their dead bodies and I’m over here wanting to console him when he cries. Feeling sad for him because he lost his stuffed toys. I think even though he’s a despicable character, we’re meant to feel that bit of connection with him. We’re meant to see his loneliness and his pain. It humanizes where everything else he does removes him from what we consider regular human reactions and emotions.

I appreciate books like this that make me feel uncomfortable. They force you to sit in that feeling, to stay still while it speaks and moves around you. You can embrace the experience, actively engaging it or you can close the book and forget about it. I’m always glad when I choose to keep going. In the end I’m still uncomfortable, but the discomfort has become nuanced and infinitely more interesting.

It’s good to feel uncomfortable once in a while. You never know what might come of it. Until next time, readers!

Maya Angelou’s I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

Hello, readers.

It’s a new day, a new week. We’re new people, living new lives, and dreaming new dreams….. Well, it’s a new week at any rate. I’m coming down from a weekend full of celebration and happiness to ease myself into the tedium of news that have lost their shiny newness, even if they’re no less important. The promise of grad school looms brightly on the horizon, but it’s no longer accompanied by anxiety and insecurity which is a relief.

9780375507892-us-300I’ve been reading Maya Angelou for the past few weeks now. I’m still surprised by the fact that I’d never read anything of hers before. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings is just powerhouse writing all the way. It narrates her early life, up until the time when she’s 16. She goes from living in Stamps, Arkansas to living in California with her mother. Everything that happens in between is described with such aplomb. Her sentences are simple and humble and they deliver punches you never saw coming. Like a very skilled boxer….who is also an invisible ninja. What I’m saying is she was a very talented lady.

There were parts of it that were unexpectedly funny. Parts where I felt a sort of sad kinship with her, there are experiences that ring true everywhere. I rarely ever read memoirs. Not for any particular reason, it just doesn’t happen often. They’re something I have to consciously seek out. Whenever I end up reading them though, I feel like I’m trespassing on someone’s life. A peeping Tom that cares less about sex, than emotions and reactions. But memoirs kinda force you into a double perspective, don’t they? Where you’re watching from the outside and also kind of experiencing this person’s life as your own.

Reading Angelou’s life was like continuously turning onto streets you didn’t expect to be there, but not minding the sudden change of path. Like at one point she was living in a car lot with other homeless children. She decided to become a conductress and spent weeks going to the office and talking with different organizations, until they  finally allowed her to work. Finally, she gets pregnant after having consensual sex for the first time and conceals it for about 8 months before telling her family. It’s just one unexpected turn after another.

That’s where the book ends, by the way. As she realizes she won’t break her baby. It’s a pretty sweet ending, actually. Makes me wonder what came next for her, so I might end up getting the rest of her memoirs.

That’s it for me, sweet readers. Until next time.