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.

51ipyqukehl-_sx329_bo1204203200_

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!

Destination: Tennessee

Hello, hello readers!

I know better than anyone that getting up on Mondays is a herculean task. It’s like climbing Mount Olympus, only to find you still have to get dressed and go to work or college. I hear you, sweet reader. So, to make your day and mine just a little better here are some marching ducks.

Tennessee.png

We’ve made it to Tennessee, home of Elvis Presley and, apparently, the Peabody Hotel Ducks. In 1933, the manager of the Peabody Hotel, decided it would be a great idea to have ducks in the hotel’s fountain. Shuttling the ducks was apparently an issue until a former circus trainer turned bellman offered to train the ducks to walk to and from the fountain. He became the first Peabody Duckmaster. Nowadays, the ducks still march back and forth in the morning and again in the afternoon. A little duck parade if you will.

Here are some interesting facts because we’re all suckers for lists:

1. Duck hasn’t been served on the hotel premises since it’s 1981 reopening.

2. The ducks are North American Mallards, one male and four hens.

3. They live in a $200,000 Duck Palace on the hotel’s roof. It’s got its own fountain and a house which is a replica of the hotel. (Never thought you’d be jealous of a duck, did you?)

4. The Peabody Ducks have appeared on different tv shows, among them The Oprah Winfrey Show and Sesame Street.

5. Perhaps the coolest bit of all is that each team of ducks only lives at the hotel for 3 months before returning to a farm where they’re free to live as wild ducks.

There you have it, folks. Tennessee has glamorous marching ducks and you have 4 hours to go before you can leave work. Thrilling, isn’t it?

You can do it, readers. I believe in you!

Destination: Oklahoma

Oklahoma

Hello, readers!

And a happy Monday to you. The weekend turned out much better than I could’ve hoped. It’s entirely possible I passed my test, so I’m hesitantly optimistic on that front! Beers were not had with the wife… Instead we pumped ourselves full of Gin, accompanied by things like passion fruit and citrus and mint and rosemary. Say what you will about hipsters, but they’ve got their alcohol down pat. I also learned a bit of hebrew. So, you know, all in all it was a pretty good weekend.

self-five

In other news.

We’ve been in Oklahoma for what seems like an unnecessarily long time. I know. I get distracted. I suppose I’m part goldfish. Perhaps the part that likes to drink? (That was a terrible joke, but I’m endlessly amused nonetheless. I’m sorry. Please bear with me.) In any case, enough is enough! I was looking for poetry about Oklahoma, because why not? And I found this little gem. It’s about writing and being there and writing without being there. It’s full of down to earth imagery that takes you there. To that place that makes you think, I want to write about this….

In Oklahoma

by CARTER REVARD

When you leave a Real City, as Gertrude Stein did, and go to Oakland, as she did, you can say, as she did, there is no there, there. When you are a Hartford insurance executive, as Wallace Stevens was, and you have never been to Oklahoma, as he had not, you can invent people to dance there, as he did, and you can name them Bonnie and Josie. But a THERE depends on how, in the beginning, the wind breathes upon its surface. Shh: amethyst, sapphire. Lead. Crystal mirror. See, a cow-pond in Oklahoma. Under willows now, so the Osage man fishing there is in the shade. A bobwhite whistles from his fencepost, a hundred yards south of the pond. A muskrat-head draws a nest of Vs up to the pond’s apex, loses them there in the reeds and sedges where a redwing blackbird, with gold and scarlet epaulets flashing, perches on the jiggly buttonwood branch. Purple martins skim the pond, dip and sip, veer and swoop, check, pounce, crisscross each other’s flashing paths. His wife in the Indian Hospital with cancer. Children in various unhappiness. White clouds sail slowly across the pure blue pond. Turtles poke their heads up, watch the Indian man casting, reeling, casting, reeling. A bass strikes, is hooked, fights, is reeled in, pulls away again, is drawn back, dragged ashore, put on the stringer. In Oklahoma, Wally, here is Josie’s father. Something that is going to be nothing, but isn’t. Watch: now he takes the bass home, cleans and fries it. Shall I tell you a secret, Gert? You have to be there before it’s there. Daddy, would you pass them a plate of fish? See friends, it’s not a flyover here. Come down from your planes and you’ll understand. Here.

Until next time, readers! Stay tuned for a more in depth look at my August: Osage County reading experience during the #24in48 Reading Marathon!

Alphabet Soup: N is for Nonsense

This segment titled Alphabet Soup: The alphabet according to someone with very little shame and a lot of time on her hands was inspired by blogger Mandy Wallace and the Writers of Kern A to Z challenge. Enjoy!

Hello, readers!

It’s Monday, it’s raining, so I’m doing the only logical thing: watching movies and reading. I say logical, but really it’s far from it. People and, by consequence, life aren’t always logical though. It’s usually a whole lot of nonsense.

N is for Nonsense

I’ve been thinking a lot about life lately – the choices and plans we make. I’m at that stage where you have to start thinking about where you want to be and how you’re going to get there. A sudden avalanche of where to live, who to live with, business plans, and too many ideas. A lot of the time I feel bogged down by it, like I’m in the middle of this giant maze but it’s all a joke because actually there is no exit and that’s what life is. Except, it’s a maze of my own making and that subtle existential claustrophobia is me getting caught up in the nonsense bits of life. In the stuff that’s inconsequential and meaningless, but that we insist on giving meaning to letting them have more sway than they ought to in our lives.

We all waste time doing things we shouldn’t. The problem, at least for me, is that they gather strength and suddenly seem like they’re actually important. They seem necessary and useful, so I rationalize myself into them only to come up empty handed and older. The nonsense we pour ourselves into eats up our time like we have it to spare. But we don’t, do we? Time ticks by, it ticks down slowly pushing us to the finish line.

I’ve been thinking about what to do with my time. How to eliminate the nonsense, which is of course easier said (or written) than done. Nonsense is what keeps us sane sometimes, it even becomes a sort of cushion when life slams us against the walls. The challenge is finding that cushioning effect in things that make sense to pursue. Things that we can look back upon in our old age with a smile on our face and pride in our hearts.

It’s something to think about, no? Have a good one, readers. And, whatever you do, make every second count.

It Lives!

Hello, readers!

It’s Monday and I’m officially back in business! And by that I mean I’m home, with steady wifi, and little to no distractions. I’d planned to be wildly active on the blog during my trip, but I spent most of my stay in places where I had no internet. The places where I had a steady connection I was barely there to appreciate it!

As I write this, the power in my house (and I’m guessing the neighborhood) has gone out. Probably because it heard me being productive and decided I shouldn’t be allowed to post this once it’s done. Fortunately, my laptop is fully charged!

booomsuckit_zpsa6b9d9e8

That’s right, Jensen. Suck on that power outage!

Now, back to my original train of thought. To make up for this crass abandonment, I’ve decided to do a post every day this week! That’s right! Black Friday ain’t got nothing on this! Except the people from Cards Against Humanity who were asking for $5 in exchange for nothing. When I checked they had about $40,000, which is impressive. Four for you, Cards Against Humanity, trolling Black Friday AND making money at the same time.

I’ve got the attention span of a goldfish right now. >.<

I’M GOING TO WRITE A POST EVERY DAY THIS WEEK. That’s what I’m saying. Geez. Get it together, self! These posts will include the Alphabet Soups I’ve missed (one of which will be going up later today!) and, for the first time ever (not that you care, or should), photo posts. You know where people just make posts with pictures and captions? That’s happening. I think you’ll enjoy it. I hope so.

I’m thinking of doing a little Christmas challenge, wherein I try to read as many Holiday themed books as possible. So, get ready for a whole lot of Christmas cheer!

Also, here is a list of the books I’ve been reading during my trip. I’m going to be talking about them at some point, so you have that to look forward to as well. I don’t know if it’ll be during December or after I’m done with the whole Christmas thing, but it’s happening! You’re welcome. Not really. More like thank you for putting up with me. You’re the best.

  1. The Complete Cosmicomics by Italo Calvino (which I’ve talked about before in another post)
  2. Where the Stress Falls by Susan Sontag
  3. The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood

Getting back to writing for you guys feels really good. Even though I wasn’t as active as I wanted, I promise I thought of you often. I’m looking forward to getting down to business….probably to defeat the Huns.

mulan

This is my face after that joke….

Stay tuned today for another post! Have a good one, readers!

Book Introduction: The Dog Stars by Peter Heller

Hello Monday readers! We’re back to our original schedule. Posting at night feels weird and has completely thrown me off my writing schedule, so I decided to return to my original posting hours. Now, on to business.

We’re finally ready to talk about our next book! I was a bit spoiled for choice when it came to choices for Colorado, but I settled on The Dog Stars because it had a touch of the post apocalyptic which I really enjoy. I know my Wyoming pick, Amnesia Moon by Jonathan Lethem, was also in that vein, but I couldn’t help myself. The Dog Stars, written by Peter Heller, follows a man who’s survived a massive illness that decimated most of the population. Nine years later, all that’s left is a handful of survivors scattered around, including him, his dog, and the man he shares an airport with for mutual protection.

Initially, getting into the book was a bit difficult. Hig, our main character, tells us he suffered from very high fevers that nearly killed him, instead they fried his brain. This means his thoughts and, therefore, what you’re reading ends up being pretty disjointed and fragmented. There were times when I had to go back and reread a paragraph a few times in order to understand what he was saying. Once you get used to it though, it’s easier to follow his train of thought. And Hig thinks a lot, he thinks about the past, about what it means to kill people, about getting used to it. He thinks about his dead wife and talks mostly to his dog, Jasper.

The book feels gritty in a sweet way, because there are all these terrible things happening or that happened, but Hig remains almost innocent. His main concern is always Jasper’s welfare, which is closely followed by taking care of families that live close by who are too sick to do much of anything. He visits, always keeping his distance so as to not get sick, and delivers vegetables, helps fix things. Bangley, his end of the world companion, is the complete opposite of him. Bangley believes in killing everyone that isn’t him and Hig, he doesn’t believe in doing anything that isn’t conducive to their survival and seems to take delight in this new Survivor status that the world has forced him into.

So far I’m halfway through the book and I’ve already cried at least once, that I can remember. There’s a lot of sadness in these pages. I feel like lately there’s been a lot of that going on in the books I’ve been reading lately, but I’m really enjoying it. It’s like an emotional purging without having to contemplate your own issues. I’m aware that stinks of denial and repression, but after crying for so many characters I feel absolutely relieved. It’s great therapy, if you ask me. But you haven’t, so I’ll keep talking about the book.

I’m not quite sure where this book will end. Hig is determined to find a survivor that isn’t infected. There’s a possible Elk shadow that keeps popping up in different places, so this mythical Elk might play a part later. Who knows?

I’ll let you know what happens. I promise. Keep it cool, readers. Until next time!

Rangent: I’ve Had the (Most Awkward) Time of My Life

A new week has begun, ending what was arguably one of the most awkward weekends in my life. Mind you, it wasn’t that I was being awkward, rather that I ended up in situation after situation that was. Lemme tell you.

On Saturday, my best friend and I were meant to be having a packing party at her place so she can get everything together for her upcoming trip. We’re both traveling for long periods, outfit planning is essential. It always is, but you know what I mean. Instead we ended up hanging out with a trio of guys whose idea of drinking together was watching a movie. In the dark. In Silence. With a beer in hand. Heap on that the internal issues that were happening in the group and you get a fairly awkward situation.

On Sunday, even though we stalled and procrastinated, we went to an ex-coworker’s baby shower. Attending baby showers is baffling to me, until I realize I’m 23 years old and that’s what people are doing at my age. Having babies, buying cars, settling down. And I’m over here just hoping no one asks me to hold a baby or talks about how of course I’ll have one some day.

No, I won’t, you hear me!? No. I. Won’t.

Back to the baby shower though, it was as cute and awkward as you’d expect it to be when you’re the expecting mom’s only two female friends at the party. Made worse by the fact that, of course, the brodude leading the games decided that we were the ones who JUST HAD to play. This lead to about five minutes of him begging and telling us he wasn’t going to beg. When that didn’t work, he sulked and expressed it by making unnecessary comments all night long. There was a long period of truly terrible jokes. I’m sparing you the details because I have no desire to relive it.

Thankfully, mom and dad were really nice and happy for us to be there. So, the weird was mitigated by nice, friendly people. Pregnant people, but that shouldn’t be held against them.

These are the times when it pays to have a stable, solid relationship with your best friend. That way the crazy and, at times uncomfortable, events around you become funny and bearable. And that’s true of a lot of things in life, having good friends who get your humor and the faces you make and that moment when you’re over everything. It means, at the very least, that someone will laugh at your jokes, respond in kind with a face of their own, and save you from murdering a few dozen people.

At the end of the day, that relationship is the one that keeps you happy and sane. It’s not about being the same people, but rather about having the same alcohol minded priorities and lack of shame.

So, buy your friends a beer. Get them some candy. Buy them a puppy. And say, “Hey! You’re a buttface, but you’re my buttface.” It’s something everyone needs to hear once in a while.

Happy Monday, readers. Until next time, here’s a weird video.