Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Top Ten Books One book has its own post...

The #TopTenBooks challenge is the brainchild of Mr. K.D. Rush (@kd_rush) Please visit his blog to (1) be delighted and amazed at just how much information can be on a blog and (2) get links to other Top Ten Book lists.  I haven't posted all of mine yet.  It will be completed this weekend.  For now, here is my number 1 selection.

#1 To Kill A Mockingbird  by Harper Lee  No other book has had such a powerful effect on me.  Each time I’ve read it, I am right there, right in that place.  The book has so many aspects to it, so many layers, so many truths contained within.  I have decided not to do a scholarly essay (I probably couldn’t!), but rather tell you from my heart how the story connected with me. Some of it might sound trite, so be it.  Books connect with us individually for many reasons, don’t they?

The slow, childhood summers of Scout, Jem and Dill: The days were 24 hours long but they seemed longer. They went outside to play on their own, roaming, imaginations reeling with possibilities, wild stories, and wonderment.  This was my life for a short time as a child and the book took me back to that time.  Days spent doing everything you could think of and more, then finding out it was only 10 o’clock in the morning. 

(My memory as an example of what I mean: For a few precious years, my mom and I lived in a big house with my grandparents and cousin.  From that house, at 5 years old, I was allowed to ride my trike all around the block (a large block) where I could stop and visit each of the neighbours, be given cookies and pats on the head, steal flowers from overflowing rose bushes and finally stop two doors down on the other side of our house to have stewed tea, watch tv and plant flowers with Mrs. McBroom.  She had polio (I knew the word at age 5 though of course I had no idea what it actually was) and she used to push herself around her house with one leg propped on a wooden stool. If I wasn’t in our backyard, I was over visiting Mrs. McBroom.)  

The child’s curiousity, sometimes fear of the unknown and the slow awakening of understanding. Scout’s journey is one of darkness into light.  She  isn’t provided with full explanations. Scout is given bits and pieces of information about the adult world and she has to pull the full picture, the full context, together, which of course, she does poetically at the end of the book.  Although Scout’s childhood, in some ways could be seen as idyllic (see above), there is also the underlying sadness arising from the death of her mother who she can’t remember.  I was raised by a single parent so I connected with how Scout and Jem were protective of their remaining parent and reacted by standing with Atticus as an ally.

The overwhelming social justice issues that needed (still need) to be addressed.  Bringing a global issued down to a personal daily level, the book opened my eyes to the individual effect of systemic, ingrained social injustice.  I knew of prejudice of course but until this book I’m embarrassed to say I never thought about how it actually would make the person feel.  One person, one to one.  I knew it was wrong but in my mind, it wrong because it was wrong as I was raised by a mom who would have never would have thought of, much less used, a derogatory term against another person.   Until reading this book I didn’t bring it down to how one’s choices were limited, how decisions would be limited. I had never considered how different my life would be, when I walked out my front door, if the colour of my skin was not white.

Now, the movie.  This book is the only book that has ever been translated perfectly to the screen. The casting, the cinematography, the dialogue, the look.  Everything is spot on.  The movie  is, in one word, breathtaking.  It is my #1 favourite movie and I can't imagine that ever changing.  Oh no, did I say 'movie'? I think another top ten list is in order!

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Top Ten Books

Life seems to be getting in the way of me putting this information in proper order but I will start and put it in final order later this week! For now, here are my choices and reasons for #2, 3, 4,and #5 on my list!

#2 The World According to Garp - the first book where I realized it was the entire arc of a person’s life. Born into circumstances that both enriched his life and haunted him, the theme of the book for me was obsession. He is obsessive about wrestling, those he loves, writing and of course his children. Strangely enough he doesn’t understand the obsessions of others and at the point where he meets the woman who is his mother’s ‘follower’, he cannot grasp her fanaticism. I was enthralled from beginning to end, and that book reminds me of a time (university) where the world was opening up to me and knowledge was flying at me furiously.  Okay, I will mention the movie.  Robin Williams was a near perfect Garp but the movie was not a good adaptation of the book; however, there is one scene that has stayed with me and rings truer and truer with each passing year.  It's the scene where Garp's mother (played by Glenn Close) is at the big house on the shore with her grandson.  He asks her what it's like to be old and she responds:  "Well, if you're very lucky, you'll have lots of memories and when you are old, you can sit and think of them." 

#3 Little Women – the first ‘real’ book I read – I remember the apartment we were living in so I was eight years old. Especially at that age, I felt completely connected to the world of an all women household and the character of Jo (imagine that) whose heart wanted more than her current circumstance was providing. She loved her family desperately but she longed to be out in the world. Even at eight, that was exactly how I felt – and in my heart I wondered if perhaps Louisa May Alcott named the character after me. I’ll mention all of the movies of this book to say that none of them were MY version of the book (!) although I did like, as a movie, the June Allyson/Margaret O’Brien, Elizabeth Taylor version. Be warned, when the Grandfather next door gifts the piano to Beth, I cry so much I'm almost inconsolable - believe me, you will too!

#4 Trinity by Leon Uris   This book, though not always easy to read (in terms of structure and, sorry, writing style) did what I think Uris wanted it to do: it gave me a genuine perspective of the political scene in Northern Ireland which, up to that point, I hadn’t a clue about.  I also feel it gave me an understanding that I didn’t have to agree with a cause even if I might understand and sympathize with how and why it happened.

I read it initially (I’ll admit now 30 years later) because it was the favourite book of a Sociology professor that I adored.  I wanted to know and understand everything about him – the professor, not Leon Uris – as you do when you’re twenty one years old, you’re lusting and you’re in love with a soulful intellectual type.  He was a great guy, witty, handsome in a geeky unhandsome way, he wore clogs and brown cords and listened to cool music.  He was thoughtful (as in full of thought) and when he spoke at meetings, everybody nodded as if to say “yes, well, NOW it makes sense”.

Sorry, I digressed. I was talking about books, wasn’t I?

#5 The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion
  this is the only book on my list that I didn’t read all the way through to the end.  But, I didn’t have to.  The grief process is different for everyone but there is a particular kind of grief connected to the sudden death of someone who is your everyday.  My ‘everyday’, the person I loved with all my heart, died very suddenly in 2008.  That’s all I can really say here other than this book means a lot to me.

Rest of list to follow shortly!

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Five Sentence Fiction - Yearning

Sara swung her duffel bag several times before she caught enough momentum to lift it up onto the sedan’s backseat; at Christmas, her partner Linda had given her a new chocolate brown leather satchel, but most days it was too small to carry all the unmarked essays and term papers that journeyed home with her.

After stopping at Dunkin’ Donuts to refill her travel mug with dark roast, Sara drove for two miles to the on-ramp that turned into eleven miles of highway, then exited onto the lane that flowed onto University Parkway; twenty minutes later, depending on traffic, she parked in the lot located directly behind the Liberal Arts Faculty. 

On these drives back and forth from work, 1997 accompanied her in the car: the Verve singing Bittersweet Symphony, Ellen DeGeneres coming out on television and Sara attending her first series of women only parties in the Student Union upper ballroom, dancing free yet entwined with Emily Burke. 

Gripping the steering wheel, familiar landmarks moving past the car’s windows, Sara remembered her summer wind happiness at the many possibilities open to her with Emily at her side.

And every morning, right about the time she was turning onto the parkway, Sara felt the same ache move through her when she glimpsed the single knowing look that had told she was no longer loved and that the choices that would determine her life would not always be her own.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Five Sentence Fiction - Exquisite

Sitting on the bench just outside of St. James historical house, I wait for you to finish perusing the gift shoppe (oh, how I loathe that spelling) while inside you lift up and examine every touristy knick-knack that said shoppe has on offer.

Although happy you’ve finally crossed over from work David to holiday Dave, I am now exhausted by your World War II fascinations, particularly when the morning had held so much hope.

Our day began with a bright orange sunrise in the window, cuddles and quiet giggling in a hotel bed, room service scones with decidedly dark coffee served upon an enamel tray.

Watching you disembark naked from the bed to pull on your robe, find your wallet, answer the door knock and pay the patient server, my heart leapt with longing, mixed with admiration, mixed with laughter, mixed with lust, overshadowed by love.

That recent memory still with me, I watch you walk out of the building now, at first hesitant, seeking me in the vast crowd, finding me, your eyes shining, and as you walk towards me I realize this was a most perfect day after all.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Five Sentence Fiction - Sacred

Alison walked around the apartment assessing what should be shipped off to Jeff’s family back east, and which items should be donated to charity - awful decisions to be making on a Friday morning when it felt like the rest of the world would be busy looking forward to the weekend. 

Looking forward was something she couldn’t imagine ever doing again. 

She went into the kitchen to make a cup of tea, and while filling up the kettle she saw Jeff’s favourite mug waiting to be washed, dried coffee inside, sitting in the sink.

Alison picked it up, closing her eyes and, though she knew she would never see him again, in her mind she watched Jeff getting out of bed early in the morning, getting dressed, drinking his coffee, kissing her before he went out the door.

She pressed the mug to her lips and, for the first time, she began to say goodbye.

Yearning for Wonderland Writing Contest Entry: Leprechauns

There once was a boy who believed in leprechauns.  He didn’t think about them all the time but when he was scolded by a teacher or pushed around by Billy the mean kid, he prayed that leprechauns would somehow help him out.

One day while walking home from school, the boy  was surprised by Billy jumping out from behind a rose bush.

“You really are dumb, aren’t you?  Didn’t you see me standing there?” Billy said, shoving the boy, knocking him onto Mrs. Wilson’s lawn. 

“One of these days you’re going to be sorry, Billy” the boy said, standing up and brushing grass off his pants.

Billy laughed, “Yeah right, I’m so scared of you. You’d need an army!” Billy grinned as he walked away.

It was unfortunate that Billy himself had not considered leprechauns because just then something quite unusual happened. Small green sprites with wings, one by one, appeared out of flowers and from behind blades of grass. They flitted and floated, forming a humming line right in front of Billy, though he didn’t see them. When he reached their line, he lifted his foot up in step, looking like he was going to squish them under his size 4 shoe.  But squish them, he did not.  The weeones worked together, hundreds of them, picking Billy up, rolling him around, turning him upside down!

“What’s happening?” Billy cried. The sprites weren’t mean, they put him back down, gently, onto the sidewalk.

One of the little fellows turned to me, with a frown on his face, and said “We would have been here sooner but some of the guys were angry that you kept calling us leprechauns.  We’re fairies, damn it.”

Ol’ Billy still sends me a Christmas card each year, but he avoids St. Patrick’s Day altogether.


I've met the challenge...

A week or so ago, I challenged - at least I think it was me doing the challenging - KD Rush , KD_Rush on Twitter to provide a listing of his top 100 songs. He mentioned his love of music and noted that when he's  on the road, driving for hours on end, music keeps him sane. Of course, this meant that I should also provide a top 100, a task that seemed overwhelming when I started to think  on it.

Music really is a life rolled up into a strangely neat package.  Almost every song I hear reminds me of a time, or a person, an event, or a hope.  As an aside, if I could sing I would want to have kd lang's voice.  Everything she sings sounds like a hymn.  If I could write poetry, I would want to write like Paul Simon.  Everything he writes reads like a hymn.  Hmmm....perhaps I should have included some actual hymns?!

The list doesn't include any jazz favourites because, shock and horror, KD doesn't like jazz.  I stuck with rock and pop. I didn't even include crooners like Frank Sinatra or Ella Fitzgerald. My selection criteria: favourite songs that I could listen to over and over on an imaginary road trip across Canada. It's an alphabetical list because I'm not crazy enough to try and number them in order of preference - though if I had to pick a true favourite it would probably be: Round Here by Counting Crows.

I've linked a few, just for variety sake:

Alanis Morrisette You Oughta Know
Annie Lennox    Why
Aretha Franklin    Natural Woman
Beatles    Hey Jude
Beatles    In my life
Beatles    Long and winding road
Bee Gees    How can you mend a broken heart
Bill Withers    Aint no sunshine
Boz Scaggs    Love look what you've done to me
Bruce Springsteen    Born to run
Bruce Springsteen    Meeting across the river
Bruce Springsteen    The rising
Buggles    Video killed the radio star
Carole King    You've got a friend
Cyndi Lauper    Girls just wanna have fun
Cyndi Lauper    If you go away
Cyndi Lauper    True Colors
Counting Crows    Round here
Creedence Clearwater Revival    Fortunate Son
Crosby Stills and Nash    Woodstock
Deep Purple    Smoke on the Water
Dire Straits    Brothers in Arms
Don Henley    Boys of Summer
Don Henley    Heart of the Matter
Doobie Brothers    What a fool believes
Dusty Springfield    Son of a preacher man
Eagles    Hotel California
Earth Wind Fire    September
Elton John    Levon
Eric Clapton    Layla
Eric Clapton    Wonderful tonight
Everything but the girl    Missing (dance version)
Fleetwood Mac    Landslide
Heather Smart    Proud
Jackie DeShannon    Put a little love in your heart
James Taylor    Carolina in my mind
James Taylor    Fire and rain
James Taylor    Up on the roof
Jann Arden    Good mother
John Mellencamp    Check it out
Johnny Cash    Hurt
Joni Mitchell    Both sides now
Joni Mitchell    Chelsea morning
Joni Mitchell    Help me
Joni Mitchell    Raised on robbery
Jose Feliciano    Light my fire
kd lang    Hallelujah
Maroon 5    Sunday morning
Melissa Etheridge    I'm the only one
Michael Jackson    Billie Jean
Michael Jackson    Man in the mirror
Michael McDonald    Take it to heart
Mike and the Mechanics    In the living years
Neil Young    Harvest moon
Neil Young    Heart of gold
Neil Young    Hey hey my my
Neil Young    Old man
Patti Griffin    Up to the mountain
Paul Simon    Fifty ways to leave your lover
Paul Simon    Graceland
Paul Simon    Slip slidin away
Paul Simon    Train in the distance
Pink Floyd    Comfortably numb
Prince    Little red corvette
Ray Charles    Georgia on my mind
Ricki Lee Jones    Rainbow sleeves
Robbie Robertson    Somewhere down the crazy river
Robbie Robertson   Broken arrow
Roberta Flack    First time ever I saw your face
Simon and Garfunkel    The boxer
Soft Cell    Tainted love
Spinners    Could it be I'm falling in love
Stevie Winwood    Back in the high life again
Stevie Winwood    Don't you know what the night can do
Stevie Wonder    Superstition
Sting    Fortress around your heart
Sting    If I ever lose my faith in you
Sting    If you love somebody
Sting    Roxanne
Stylistics    I'm stone in love with you
Supertramp    Rudy
Tears for Fears    Everybody wants to rule the world
Tears for Fears    Shout
Temptations    Papa was a rolling stone
The Cult    She sells sanctuary
The Dream Academy    Life in a northern town
Tracy Chapman    Baby can I hold you
Tracy Chapman    Fast car
Travelling Wilburys    Handle with care
Trisha Yearwood    I would have loved you anyway
U2    All I want is you
U2    Bad
U2    One
U2    Still haven't found what I'm looking for
U2    With or without you
Van Morrison    Crazy Love
Van Morrison    Tupelo Honey
Verve    Bittersweet symphony
Willie Nelson    Always on my mind
ZZ Top    Sharp dressed man

Tell me what you think - what did I miss?  I patiently await KD Rush's list.  He's been pretty darn busy with work, family and life, so he gets a reprieve, for now. :))

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Thank you to the encouraging twenty-four (and one hundred & fifty four)

I don't always know the proper blog etiquette but I wanted to say a very very sincere thank you to the 24 people who have taken a leap of faith with me and now follow my blog.  It is so encouraging to a newbie like me that you are willing to go on this journey with me and wonder how it will turn out.

Initially when I got comments I wasn't sure how to respond, where to respond etc... I've decided that I will do my utmost to respond back to each comment.  (now that I've discovered the reply button - someone should have pointed that out to me previously !)

I also want to express my gratitude to the 154 or so people (some orgs) who follow me on Twitter.  I realize other twitter-ers have more followers but I have stressed quality over quantity!  I am proud of the people to whom I have been able to connect.  I look forward to hearing their insights and points of views.  They enrich my world beyond what I ever thought possible.

Now, let's get writing, eh?!

Friday, February 3, 2012

Five Sentence Fiction - Shiver

“Stephen would be appalled to see these awful green walls, and the speckled brown (easy to clean up messes and tears) linoleum; whoever painted this hospital waiting room clearly had no imagination or colour sense.”  Em fidgeted trying to get comfortable in the increasingly hard, plastic chair and glanced over to check the clock again; though time seemed to be standing still in this little room, another hour had apparently drifted past. 

Fully dressed and wearing her heavy sweater, knees covered by her winter coat, Em still felt chilled to her core. She was just about to ask for a blanket at the nurses’ station when Stephen’s doctor appeared in the doorway, walking over to sit down in the chair beside her. “Blue, they should have painted the room blue” Em thought as she shivered, and the awful green walls started to spin.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

My 'official' theme - One world, one hope, one love.

I'm not sure, as a newbie writer, that I should confess how difficult it is to find words to express how powerful this video is for me.  The video itself explores the idea that we all carry around our stories wherever we go.  How can we ever judge someone in a split second without knowing where they've come from, what they're going through and where they're headed?

The song itself blends into U2's song "One".  To me, the lyrics invoke the theme of One World, One Hope, which was not only the theme of the landmark 1996 International AIDS Conference in Vancouver, British Columbia but also the title of the iconic image painted for the conference by Vancouver treasure Joe Average.

Isn't it magnificent?

Years ago there was an episode of Ally McBeal when her psychiatrist told Ally she should have a theme song. I think that's wonderful advice!  Though I'm not sure I could name just ONE song as a personal theme, this video definitely encompasses what is important to me for this blog and for my writing.  

What about you? Do you have a theme song?