Erika Swyler’s The Book of Speculation

Hello, readers!

Today is the first day of the rest of your lives. BOOM. What a way to greet the day, huh? With clichés and loud noises! A Monday has never been greeted quite so energetically. And that is probably a lie, but who are they to define the limits of our enthusiasm, right?! Right. The truth is this particular Monday will be a bit of a battle for me. So, if for any reason you’re going into battle too, just know I’m with you. We’ll do battle together and watch the world burn.

Speaking of metaphorical battles, The Book of Speculation took a whole bunch of ammo to get me to pick it up. I don’t know what happened between being excited about buying it and now, but I couldn’t even understand why it was there in the first place. And let me tell you, that was a mistake. Once I picked it up and got over the unfamiliar pace of the book (after reading familiar authors for so long), I really enjoyed it.

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The book introduces us to Simon, a librarian with dead parents and a wild child sister. One day he receives a book in the mail from a stranger and nothing is ever quite the same. Particularly after realizing the women in his family, mermaids by trade, drown young on the same day. He’s got 10 days to save his sister before the same fate that befell his mother, and countless other women before them, finds her.

I love books about the circus, about carnivals. I always feel they have a strange sort of magic woven into their pages. Maybe it’s the fact that so many things are spinning, the dim lighting and the smell of cotton candy. The promise of strange and fantastic things. Whatever it is I’m always drawn to them, it’s probably what drew me to this book if I’m honest. All these women working as mermaids, generation after generation of girls who drowned for a living, drowning seemingly without cause. The tarot cards that bind the narrative together, I can almost picture the colors and see the worn edges.

The book lets you see Simon’s present, but it also lets you travel through his family’s past. You get to see where everything began, just as it seems like everything is going to end, and they converge beautifully in a show of understanding. By the time it’s all said and done, you can see the delicately woven threads that make up the narrative shining up at you from the pages. Glistening like the water that ties all these characters together. It was unexpected, but thoroughly welcome.

Maybe this Monday, this battle, will be like almost drowning. Not being able to breathe and then, just when you feel like you might give in, you’ll find new courage and, most importantly, a new breath. We’ll see.

Until next time, readers!

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Tracy Letts’ August: Osage County

Mid-week hello’s to you, readers!

This week actually feels really packed. I have an unnecessary amount of appointments, the ones you get for routine check ups you don’t really want. But you get them anyone because, you know, what if? I’m kinda looking forward to a quiet Friday and a not so quiet weekend!

We’re in Oklahoma, you guys! The sooner state, which is apparently what they called the people who settled in the land before the time that was designated for it. I never would’ve guessed that was the explanation. Still, I’m glad we’re here and ready to talk about our Oklahoma pick.

file_578458_august-osage-county-posterAugust: Osage County by Tracy Letts is actually one of those books I’d kind of been meaning to read for a really long time. Especially when the movie came out because, hello, Meryl Streep. Plus Julia Roberts. Just, amazing. I’d never gotten around to it, so I’m glad I finally did during the #24in48 Reading Marathon. It’s about a fairly dysfunctional family that comes together when the patriarch goes missing. Everyone is under the same roof for the first time in years and things are just going crazy.

It was a surprising book in quite a few ways. First of all, I had no idea it was a play. After the initial struggle of finding yourself having to quickly switch your mindset to a new format, I was actually glad about it. Not only does the author pull it off, but there were scenes that were just kind of mind blowing for me.

I remember at one point I turned to the wife, who was reading on the couch next to me, to show her the book and how it was organized. There’s a scene where everyone is talking at once, about three conversations happening simultaneously, but also constantly changing. Characters would move from one conversation to another, come back to the original one. I was mesmerized by how the dialogue had been structured.

And, when you think about it, it’s not such an incredible feat. I’m sure it’s not the first time it’s done, but it felt so real. So true, to who I thought these people I was reading about were. I could picture it, the loudness and the silences. Of course, that’s not the only scene that I enjoyed, but that’s the one that really struck a chord. Something about feeling all those voices speaking in disarray around you. It’s a very particular sensation that you don’t often or ever get through books.

The play itself was really good. It’s full of character, of raw things and unexpressed anger, some resentment. It was really different from the books I usually read, but in a good way.

I’m really happy I finally got to reading it. It was a pretty satisfying experience in the end.

That’s it for now. Stay golden, you guys.

Book Haul (of sorts)

Good morrow, readers!

Happy Three Kings’ Day! I’ve talked about this Holiday before, during Destination Christmas. It basically works as a second Christmas, which usually means presents. Exciting stuff, I tell you.

Speaking of presents, I got an Amazon gift card for Christmas which I spent entirely on books. They’ve finally arrived and I’m unnecessarily giddy. I love getting things on the mail.

Anyway! I figured I’d share with you the books I got, because why not?

I’m happy because it’s a fairly diverse bunch. Hopefully, they’ll all be as good as I think they’ll be. I’ll make detailed posts about each one as I read them, I just wanted to share in the excitement of getting mail!

I’m keeping it short and sweet today. Family functions mockingly call my name.

Until next time, readers! Have a good one.

Photo Post: Spain & Boston

Hello, hello readers!

I write to you from the comfort of my bed where I’m recovering from last night. I was working at an event and, as always, the next day I wake up like I tried to fight a bulldozer. Alright, that was dramatic, but you get the point! At one point a spoon fell from my tray and, as I was bending to pick it up, two boys ran at me to pick it up for me. Not gonna lie, it was a pretty sweet moment. And that’s what this post is about, little moments from my trip.

Spain

I had such a good time in Spain! I was even warm for most of it, which was pretty exciting in and of itself. Both the mountains and the coast were beautiful, the food was delicious, and we had a really nice time at the house. It’s up in the mountains, so it draws power from a solar powered battery. Since it was foggy as hell, we were actually sans electricity for most of our stay, which sounds bad but wasn’t. Come night time the candles would go on, the fire would be lit, and the house would glow softly separating us from the world. It was a little bit magical.

Boston

My cousin has lived in MA for decades and I’d never been up there to visit him. I figured, no time like the present and stopped there on my way home. It was awesome because I got to see where he grew up, where he went to school, where he hung out. I think it’s the longest time we’ve spent together, ever, so I’m really glad I did it. Plus, not gonna lie, I’m pretty excited about Dance at the Bougival!

After Boston I spent a night in New York, but I realized I took literally no pictures in New York. So, pictures of 6’7? Nonexistent. I have no idea why I carry a camera around with me. Anyway, I’m happy to have the pictures I did manage to take. It’s been nice reliving the memories they carry.

I’ll be posting Day 3 of the Literary Advent Calendar, so don’t miss it.

Have a good one, readers!

Rangent: Rabble, Rabble, Hospital Conditions

I know I’ve been on a few rants lately, but bear with me.

Yesterday started out looking like every other day. I did some shopping, because that’s what you do when you have other things to do. To be honest, it was pretty efficient shopping, but that is neither here nor there. At some point in the afternoon we got a call from my elderly grandfather saying he thought he’d stepped on a nail, but he wasn’t sure. What he was, was afraid. My grandfather had a pretty major stroke a few years ago and, while he’s made a remarkable recovery, there was some brain damage. This means it takes him longer to understand things and small things can really scare him.

The wound wasn’t actually that bad, he was wearing shoes which shielded him from properly impaling himself, but just to be safe we took him to the hospital. We figured, a check up, then a tetanus shot, and that’d be it. Well, it wasn’t. Why? Because the hospital didn’t have any tetanus shots! We’ve been going from one pharmacy to the next looking for it and no one has it in stock.

I realize that it’s not like saying they didn’t have thread for stitches or pain medication, but to me it’s just part of the trend. State hospitals are under staffed, under prepared and usually over crowded. Not only that, but the doctors are overworked and tired, which makes it easier to make mistakes. It amazes me that so little attention and care is put into making sure that facilities run as they should and that the personnel is at it’s most proficient to treat patients.

This isn’t a particularly innovative or special rant. There’s nothing new being said here.  Moments like this just remind me of the kind of society and the kind of world we’re living in. Thankfully, my grandfather is fine. The wound wasn’t too deep and after we find the tetanus shot, he should be covered. Sleep deprivation may be playing a part in this rant, seeing as we got home in the wee morning. I should probably take a nap. Or something. Right? Something?

I promise we’ll return to your regularly scheduled and, (hopefully) more entertaining, programming tomorrow. Until then, keep your shots up to date. Stay safe, readers.

Faith vs. Self-preservation with a side of South Park

Yesterday turned out to be a lazy, yet quietly productive day. It was a mix of South Park (I’m watching the whole thing for the first time) and admin type work for the blog and a group I belong to. It was pleasant, in a way, ticking things off my to do list, while also making some impressive progress on my South Park quest. A quest which I’m enjoying immensely, I have no idea why it took me so long to watch this show. I’m currently on season 9 and it’s still going strong. I can almost imitate Cartman, so I feel accomplished.

Want to know what else I made progress with? My reading. I spent a few hours today curled up on my couch, just me and an indecent number of Mormons. Which, mind you, isn’t too far away from the truth. The author is chronicling different situations that take place within the Fundamentalist Mormon religion through different people. He speaks of one such woman’s family tree and describes it as something that looks like a complex engineering blueprint. She married her stepmother’s father and became, not only her stepmom’s stepmom, but also her own step-grandmother. That’s pretty crazy, right?

I don’t have issues with polygamy, in general. I believe in the idea that adults should be able to have multiple partners, whether in an open relationship or a plural relationship between 3 or more people, if they so desire. However, reading these accounts of Mormon polygamy was bothering me and I finally understood why when I read this line: ” Girls are led to believe that such a relationship is the one way to salvation”. These girls, because some of them are as young as 13 and 14 years old, are brought up to believe that the only way to make it into Heaven is by entering into plural marriages and being fully obedient to these men.  It’s either polygamy or damnation.

The motto for the Bountiful community in Canada, a Fundamentalist Mormon town, is “Keep sweet, no matter what”. It sounds innocent enough, but when you take into consideration that this is a community where disobedience is discouraged and severely punished, it takes on a more sinister meaning. It stops being just cute a saying to keep posted on fridge doors and it becomes something much more threatening. Keep sweet, no matter what….or else.

The same woman who became her own step-grandmother is quoted as trying to “unravel where God stops and man begins”. That’s a question believers of every religion ask themselves at some point. People often forget that members of the clergy and church leaders are just men, even if their intent is to speak in god’s name, sharing what they believe god would want. However, they don’t have a direct line to heaven, they’re just working off History and scriptures written by men like themselves. This becomes especially problematic in the Mormon religion because they believe their leaders are actually prophets who speak for god. It means these men are given a divine license to do as they wish and place it all under god’s name.

I had the good fortune of being raised by a family that taught me that I had a right to speak for myself. They taught me how to identify abuse and what healthy relationships looked like, even if they didn’t have perfect relationships themselves. Reading this book I’m surprised by what these women go through for their religion and I can’t help but wonder how they cope. I don’t doubt that there are good times the author doesn’t show because it goes against the point he’s trying to make, but some of the accounts he shares are really baffling, in a way. He tells of women raped, men who marry both mother and daughter, young girls pulled out of school only to be married off and impregnated, it’s intense. I understand these women strongly believe that is the only true path to salvation, but I wonder where their sense of self preservation is? Is their faith so strong that it completely overpowers it?

What do you think, readers? Does faith trump self preservation? Let me know what you think. Until next time, stay classy!

Fun in the Sun(day) : Food Truck Summer Fest

It’s Sunday again. I bet you’re all thrilled that Monday is once again upon us. I’m kidding, Monday is hated by everyone in equal measure.

Today was another pleasant day spent in the Sun. There was a food truck festival to raise money for university scholarships. It was cool, but they weren’t prepared for the amount of people that showed up. Halfway through most of the trucks had run out of food and the lines had become infinite. I can’t stress enough how happy I am to have gotten there early because it meant that not only were we served quickly, but we were also able to try food from different trucks.

There weren’t a huge amount of trucks in attendance, but the ones that made it to the festival were delicious. We had burger sliders with bacon and onion jam, a large plate of nachos with nearly every topping imaginable, spicy sesame chicken with rice, ice cream, and lemonade. Yes, I stuffed my face. Albeit in the classiest way possible, which just means that I managed not to spill anything on myself!

The only thing that I didn’t really like were the ice creams – Key Lime Pie Mojito and Fluffy Bacon, which was a combination of marshmallows and bacon. They sound delicious, in theory, but in practice the texture was off and the flavors weren’t quite at their peak. So, that was a bit of a disappointment. My other issue was the never ending lines. This is going to sound ridiculous, but I waited over an hour for a couple of lemonades. Most places weren’t selling beverages, you had to buy them at the beverage centric food trucks or other kiosks. I got sunburned while I waited, that’s how long I waited for.

Here are a few pictures from today, some good, some terrible, such is life, I suppose.

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You know, lines are an interesting phenomenon. They’re this self contained world and the longer you spend in them, the more tribal they get. There’s a sense of solidarity between its members, but there’s also a high level of wariness. Tensions grow as more people join the line, time lengthens, and you start to wonder if that one guy is trying to cut in ahead. There was talk of rioting if the lemonade people didn’t get it together. I’m telling you, lines can get really intense. We also took a short workshop on how to set up a home garden with fruits, vegetables, and herbs. I bought seeds a few weeks ago, but I haven’t done anything with them, so now I’m excited all over again to start planting.

All in all though, because I got there early, I had a really nice time. I ran into friends I hadn’t seen for a while, I frolicked in the plants or some other nonsense. My only hope is that if they repeat the festival next year (and they definitely should!), they can work on the issues they had this time around to make it run more smoothly. I don’t want to know how it all ended this time around, people kept arriving and there was really no food left. *shudders* Can anyone say lynch mob?!

I hope you’re all having a great summer, readers. Enjoy the Sun. Roll down a grassy hill. Attend an orgy. Fly a kite. Summer only happens once a year, so put your shorts on and make the best of it!

Until next time. =)