Stern, In Beauty Bright

In Beauty Bright In Beauty BrightStern, Gerald; Norton 2012WorldCatLibraryThingGoogle BooksBookFinder 

Another book I grabbed off of the new books shelves at Deschutes Public Library. I figured if it was written by an old guy with 17 other books of poetry under his belt and several awards, including a National Book Award, a National Jewish Book Award and a Wallace Stevens Award, he must be reasonably talented.

Talented? Perhaps. I had to force myself to read it from the very beginning. I cannot explain why I simply did not give up. Perhaps it was because I added it not just to Goodreads but to Open Library and Zotero (all my assorted documentation) at the start instead of at the end like usual, and when I did I sort of jokingly told myself it was so that I would finish it. Bah!

This may be great poetry and the author may be extremely talented. I could not stand it. It is basically stream of conscious run-on sentences that meander and loop back and abuse the reader’s sense of complex sentence structure. That is, he (except for one poem, I think) only ever uses a period at the end of a poem and the rest is full of commas and em dashes, mostly, along with semi-colons and the occasional colon. This I can do; I do it myself in my normal writing. But he also jumps to whole new clauses (really sentences!) in the middle of a clause with no punctuation or other indicator whatsoever. It truly is often stream of conscious writing.

It might be for you but I could not stand it. Still not sure why I forced myself to finish it; it would have been far simpler to remove it from my Open Library list and from Zotero.

I wrote the above at a bit past half way through as I wanted to get down what I was feeling and thinking about it.

The back half did improve some for me. There are a couple poems with more normal sentence structures and even a couple that that I liked. Here’s the one I liked the best:

Slow to Learn

Sarcasm came down on me like red dust and
contempt like the street lamps they lit after school
so we could find our way home in the dark.

I lived in fear that I would lose my colored bookmark and
shame at the laughter coming from the front seat of the Pontiac.
And I hate that I was the truest of all balloons
You beat for the sweet and delicate things inside.

But I’m fed up with bitterness

and I learned from Brecht that anger at injustice
makes your voice hoarse, and hatred of vileness
distorts your features, but I already knew it.

All in all, can’t say that I enjoyed it but perhaps you might. Perhaps I’ll look for one of his earliest works to see if his style has changed or whether it stayed pretty much the same.

Deschutes beer tasting night at the Platypus Pub

[FYI: The next few posts will be tagged DigiWriMo since they were written during November. I did not post them then though as I set aside the last couple days to get out close to 10,000 words to meet my goal instead of fiddling with WordPress.]

I had a very bad afternoon yesterday (Thursday, 29th) and by 3:30 pm I was ready to start drinking some very dark, very strong beer. But I didn’t.

Then around 3:50 I saw this tweet from @DeschutesBeer

Meet the brewer & taste The Abyss ’11, ’12, BBXXIII, BBXXIV, & Jubelale on Nitro @platypuspubbend #inbend 2nite 6-8pm. See you there??

Sara and I decided to go since we had not yet had Black Butte Porter XXIII. We headed over around 5:15 to check out the bottled beers upstairs—looking for Midnight Sun Berserker Imperial Stout, in particular. Didn’t find any but there are several Midnight Suns and a few other things we’d like to try soon. Headed downstairs and got a table before the proceedings were to start. Turns out that they even had Black Butte Porter XXIII on tap so we got a 10 oz. snifter to share and some food.

Snifter of Black Butte Porter XXIII at The Platypus Pub

Snifter of Black Butte Porter XXIII at The Platypus Pub

This is what I put into Untappd when I checked this beer in:

Mmmm. Tobacco, figs, slight wine notes, pepper on sides. XXIV is better but this is darn fine.

The event started a bit early but we had our food and it was an ongoing thing for a couple hours so we chilled and ate. The brewer and some other folks were there and had some ingredients—brewer’s licorice, vanilla beans and cherry bark, and something else (I forget)—in jars for smelling and tastes of the beers.

While we were eating we saw that they had flights of the 5 beers so we ordered one. It came with the BBP XXIII & XXIV, The Abyss 2011 & 2012, and Jubelale on nitro. Then they told us there was a special 6th one which we would get from the brewer but a few minutes later a guy from the Platypus Pub came by with our 6th glass and said “Here’s your XXII.” Holy WTF, Batman! Black Butte Porter XXII. Sara immediately texted Stacey and Beth. Beth was able to come join us.  All of the beers were quite good but I wasn’t very good at making notes last night.

Deschutes flight: Back L –> R: BBPXXIII, BBPXXIV, Abyss 2011. Front L –> R: Abyss 2012, Jubelale 2012 (nitro), BBP XXII

BBP XXII was much smoother than the XXIII and XXIV and tasted more of vanilla and dark malts, with a very slight bourbon/whiskey taste. I think Sara and Beth like it the best of the three but I still like XXIV the most. Perhaps that is because I have had it more frequently and in more varied situations. Sure wish I could give the XXII that chance, too.

Black Butte Porter case

These are amazing beers and I want to thank Bend for being the town that it is, Platypus Pub for hosting this evening, and to especially thank Deschutes for brewing so many outstanding libations and sharing them with us,

If I Don’t Reach My Goal – Have I Failed?

Title unabashedly borrowed from this post by Jane Boyd, the timing of which couldn’t be better. I have been thinking about this more and more lately the last few days as it becomes more than apparent that despite getting off to a great start and keeping up for the first half of the month that I now will probably not make the goal of 50,000 (counted) words for DigiWriMo. As I write this (27 November AM) I need a tad under 10,500 words to reach it.

 So the question is this; by not reaching my original goal – have I failed?  Perhaps yes….perhaps no.  I’m not going to agonize over it.  Instead, I’m celebrating the various things that I have done and that I will continue to do in the days to come.

Now, I told myself before I even committed that not making it would not be an issue as long as I had actually begun writing again. So, thankfully, there’s that.

And I most certainly have been writing. You (whoever you are reader, and from whatever venue you are reading my words from) have probably not seen all of those words. And did I really not make 50,000? It depends on how one counts. So, how (and what) did I count?

I have been using Scrivener to draft in and/or store what I am counting. Scrivener provides a great tool—Project Targets—that not only counts your total but lets you set a timeline for your project and then gives you daily writing goals and tracks your progress toward those along with total progress. There are also ways to simply count your words without using the Targets but this suited my purpose better.

My Scrivener desk top

A screen shot of my Scrivener desktop with some folders collapsed and the Project Targets window up.

You can see the full-size picture on Flickr.

Counting

Blog posts – I draft in Scrivener, including pasting in all of the URLs I need for the post, and then paste the complete draft into the WordPress editor and get to work formatting. A fair few words end up not getting counted because they are “behind the scenes”—link text; alt descriptions, titles, etc. for photos. Once the post goes live, I highlight everything from the last tag or keyword up to the title of the post and copy that and then paste it over the draft in Scrivener. Any comments I make on the post—usually in response to someone else’s comment—gets copied and pasted into Scrivener at the bottom of the post; just mine, not others comments.

I have several potential posts drafted. Some may get posted—in November still, or later—some may not see the light of day. But I wrote them—whatever they amount to—so they count.

Tweets – At first I was only counting tweets that were directly DigiWriMo related and carried the #digiwrimo hashtag. I copied the text of each tweet and pasted it into a single Scrivener doc called “Tweets sent” that had a small rule placed between each date. I also pasted in the link to the tweet, which made up for the loss of link text, etc. in blog posts and other things not counted but nonetheless written digitally.

Eventually I noticed that I was having serious conversations—short as they may be—with others via Twitter that were intended to convey or ask for information about topics important to the participants, so I started counting those also. Not every tweet I sent was counted though since some were just goofiness. Still, it could be argued that all should count as they were written digitally. I say “Count what you want.”

When I post to my blog I routinely send out a tweet about it. I also post that same content into Google+ and Facebook for those folks in those venues who might be interested but for whatever reason don’t use RSS. Believe me, in Facebook anyway, I can get a lot of comments regarding my blog posts; more than on the posts themselves usually. ::sigh:: I only counted the tweets though, not the duplication into the other two venues. I could justify an argument for doing so but I don’t want to.

I also did not count retweets or favorites. Favorites I mostly use as a bookmark feature, although I do use it sometimes as a “Well done!” comment to the poster. Retweets are trickier since I am usually throwing them out there as a potential aid to conversation/commentary. Nonetheless, they take so little work that I chose not to count them.

Poems – I did not write many poems but a few were written (or co-written) and posted in assorted places. I took part in the DigiWriMo midnight launch party joint poem writing. Of the rest, two can be found on the blog—a poem written a couple years ago but I that had failed to put up after it was published and the rights reverted to me and one about my experience in the first #digped chat. One was my vignette for the group-written novel and included a doggerel poem written as a fan letter to Digi the Duck, one was a Twitter poem, and two were posted to Facebook since they were in response to a prompt given to me there by a friend (Jess). I have one in draft that is based on the Twitter Trending Topics during the midnight launch party but I never got very far with it.

Book-spine poems, inspired by Andrew McGregor, made up another five blog posts, including one that was a meta-poem about book-spine poetry. Compiling my list of book titles for possible use—only ones I own so far—provided me with 1885 words. I also have a few (very rough) drafts put together. I definitely hope to do more of them.

My journal – I am counting my journal, which I keep in Word, although with any luck no one will ever see it. I write it digitally and I do consult it on occasion, besides whatever benefit the writing of it provides. It used to serve as the genesis of  what became ~20 mix CDs that served as musical journals, many of which I gave away copies as gifts. So I paste my journal entries into Scrivener every couple days to be counted.

Book reviews – Many of these end up as blog posts but some only get put in Goodreads. I did not count both versions if they are in both, only the blog version. I also have a few draft reviews started. Sadly, these are the ones I came into the project with. One is long overdue. Oh well.

Fiction – I wrote a very short story (218 words) comprised entirely of one syllable words based on a prompt my friend (Jess) provided. I am also working from another prompt given to me by my daughter to write something based in the Girl Genius universe. At first I shrunk from that one a bit because as much as I love Girl Genius I don’t think I can do it justice. But then I had a brilliant insight as to how to write a mashup of Girl Genius and Gail Carriger’s The Parasol Protectorate series. No! I am not saying what it is. I want it to be a surprise since whether or not I pull it off successfully the idea itself is brilliant. Brilliant, I tell you. I kind of think it won’t be done for DigiWriMo either but that is OK. I want to make it as good as I can since I really enjoy both series.

Assorted – Not counting: As I said above, many tweets did not get counted, nor did much of what (little) I did in Facebook. I also did not count text messages of any sort although they clearly constitute digital writing and often mundane but nonetheless important communications to me. I also do a fair bit of data entry in a couple of spreadsheets for books read and books purchased and am starting a beer purchase history one. None of that has gotten counted. Also, my entries in the Untappd ap  take a fair bit of work with all the selections and ratings to be made even if in the end not that many words are actually typed. Not counted. Oh, no email counted.

Other things that I am counting: I started a list of issues for the new doctor will be going to visit soon since we moved; draft blog posts on liminality in my life, a comment policy, a review/commentary on two movies, draft book reviews, moving to Bend, Facebook promoted posts and businesses that primarily rely on Facebook for reaching customers, digital scholarly editions, and a few other odds and ends; and poem drafts.

Projected stuff – I had hoped to write a short Twitter novella but never found a story line and I had hoped to write more Twitter poems—haikus and similar short things.

Branching out – I was fairly successful in branching out by trying my hand at a group poem, a group novel, the Twitter vs. Zombies game, book-spine poetry, short fiction (of one-syllable), and an intended fiction mashup.

Prompts – I culled prompts, actively and passively, from many places. Some came from DigiWriMo directly, like the opening night party’s group poem, and later Twitter vs. Zombies and the group novel.

I started the month with a list of ideas, which my wonderful wife also contributed to. Some of the things she suggested were that while writing about moving to Bend that I try to answer the question,” What would I show to visiting family/friends?”, a list of areas for growth/learning over next couple of years, and some commentary on things not read, that is, things acquired with the full intention of getting to quickly but that fell by the wayside.

Other DigiWriMo participants contributed some through their own efforts or by directly putting out prompts. The idea for book-spine poetry came for Andrew McGregor. A poem and commentary came from the first #digped chat. I saw a few other prompts from DigiWriMo folks in various places but never got around to acting on them. A few days ago I goaded Jeff Brackett into posting the list of 51 that he had on Twitter and culled the following in a first pass:

  • Prompt 2: Select one Tweet & expand into blog post #DigiWriMo
  • Prompt 3: Choose one #DigiWriMo participant; comment on work and encourage them
  • Prompt 4: Why are you *not* writing? #DigiWriMo
  • Prompt 5: Turn ideas from one song from playlist (or radio) into Blog post #DigiWriMo
  • Maybe you can substitute some words/topics to generate new prompts #digiwrimo // thanks!

I also put out a request on Facebook on Black Friday and these are the responses I got:

Jess:

  • Pick a line/syllable restriction that appeals to you (3 lines/7ish syllables per line usually feels do-able to me even when I’m stuck) and poem it up. Tell me what you see, what you smell. Be a reporter in verse.
  • Write a short short story (I’m not picturing more than a double-spaced page, here) entirely in one-syllable words.
  • Write a creative non-fiction short story, but from the point of view of one of the other people involved.

Stacey: How about a blog post on Why the Humanities matters? ;-)

Sara (daughter): Something in the Girl Genius universe?

Laura:

  • When I was a child, I loved…
  • Whenever I smell ____, I am reminded of…
  • I first learned about sex from…

I took on a few of those, as mentioned above, and am working on some of the others. I want to heartily thank everyone who has directly inspired me, challenged me, and supported me this month!

I have a fair few things in the pipeline ready to post but I think I will spend the next few days primarily writing. The goal is to write 50,000 words digitally and make some of them available and not to post 50,000 words. As of these words that I am currently typing, early in the morning of 29 November, I have 44,268 words. I am so very close. This post itself may or may not get posted before midnight Friday as it contains an awful lot of links and formatting in WordPress still takes a fair bit of time and effort.

Final words:

I actually made 50,000 words at 3:20 pm 30 November during the last #digiwrimo twitter chat with this tweet:

These 20 words will reach my #digiwrimo goal of 50k words on Friday afternoon, 30 November 2012. Go me! Win!

It also include this picture:

Success!

I had a good time, met lots of interesting people, many of whom I look forward to interacting with again, learned some things, have a ton of things drafted up and ready to post to the blog, and also have some interesting projects to work on further.

I send a hearty “Thank you!” to all partcipants but especially to Jesse Stommel (@Jessifer), Sean Michael Morris (@slamteacher), and all the others at Marylhursts’ English & Digital Humanities program for hosting, driving, and inspiring Digital Writing Month.

 

Brew Wërks Sunday Conversation Series

Pint of Brew Wërks Neurotic Blonde Ale

Pint of Brew Wërks Neurotic Blonde Ale

Last night we went to the inaugural edition of Brew Wërks Brewing Company’s Sunday Conversation Series with Brewmaster Michael McMahon. I would expect it to grow, but we had a lovely time as it was only 6 of us (3 couples) which made it easy to converse sitting around a table.

The conversation(s) was great and included beer trends and styles, whether the drinking public or brewer(ie)s drive the trends, recipes, assorted processes in beer/cider/mead making, water quality and other testing issues, food, Mexico, reasons for coming to Bend—all of us are fairly recent arrivals—places we’ve lived and worked before, and on and on. It began at 6 pm and we left a little around 8:45 and the others were still at it.

There were food and drink specials—although I never knew what they actually were, nor did I ask. In the end, we got 20% taken off our bill though so it didn’t really matter what the specifics were.

Brew Wërks Pub features 6 taps of Brew Wërk beers and 6 guest taps and an assortment of great food.

Mike hopes to do this every week and would like to get more people to come and chat. It really was laid back and inviting. I even got a business card and invite to come by the brewery and check things out, with the pleasant caveat that I might be put to work. Sounds fair to me.

So if you are a home brewer or not (I’m not. Yet.), beer aficionado or simply interested in chatting about beer and other topics over good beer and food on a Sunday evening then do check out Brew Wërks Brewing Company’s Sunday Conversation Series at the Old Mill Brew Wërks Pub, 6 pm to ….

Hope to see you there soon!

Graphic novels read in 2012, so far

I realized that I have only posted one review on my blog of a graphic novel that I have read this year, Bloody Chester. I have, though, read around 17 of them this year so far. I generally don’t have much to say about graphic novels since I am relatively new to the art form. So, I thought I might collect them here in case anyone is interested.

Daytripper – 4 stars

Daytripper DaytripperGabriel Bá and Fabio Moon; Vertigo 2011WorldCatLibraryThingGoogle BooksBookFinder 

Found browsing the shelf at Deschutes Public Library.

A man dies repeatedly as he lives his life. Brás de Oliva Domingos is a writer of obituaries and this is his. Writing, friendship, family, love, death, it is all written—and exquisitely drawn—here.

Cairo – 4 stars

Found browsing the shelf at Deschutes Public Library.

Ancient myths and legends, Arabs and Israeli soldiers, do-gooder and potential jihadist Americans, and an enchanted Jinn-containing hookah all come together in a tale of good vs. evil, sacrifice, and love set in Cairo and surrounds.

I enjoyed it quite a bit.

Bloody Chester – 4 stars

Recommended by: Unshelved

I’m not going to copy my review here as I wrote a bit more in my blog post.

Luba – 3 stars

Found browsing the shelf at Deschutes Public Library.

It was kind of odd but I did enjoy it. Sometimes there seemed to be too many characters and I’d get lost in who was who or what their relationships were. Also, the stories and vignettes are not in strict chronological order so it makes it difficult to fully grasp. Lots of sex.

Mnemovore – 4 stars

Found browsing the shelf at Deschutes Public Library.

This was interesting; very dark. I like how it is self-contained. There may be a follow-up some day but this is it for the nonce. It is complete while remaining open.

Addresses memory and its mutability.

American Vampire, Vol. 1 − 4 stars

American Vampire American VampireScott Snyder; Vertigo 2010WorldCatLibraryThingGoogle BooksBookFinder 

Found browsing the shelf at Deschutes Public Library.

Found this at the library today when I discovered their graphic novel shelves. I enjoyed it and may try to track down further volumes.

Miss Don’t Touch Me, Vol. 1 and Vol. 2 − 4/3 stars

Recommended by: Unshelved

Quick read of murder and intrigue in a Paris brothel in the 1930s. I hope the library has vol. 2 available soon.

Cow Boy – 4 stars

Recommended by: Unshelved

Outlaw: The Legend of Robin Hood – 4 stars

Recommended by: Unshelved

Hark! A Vagrant – 3 stars

Recommended by: SQT

I mostly enjoyed this. Some (most?) of the Canadian history was lost on me but I had at least heard of most of the folks. My favorite bits were the literary ones although some of the historical ones were pretty funny also.

I found it a fast read.

Are You My Mother? – 3 stars

Recommended by: SQT

This was OK. Sara got it from our new public library so I read it. It is fairly narcissistic, to say the least, but some of the info on D. W. Winnicott was quite interesting. Like any psychoanalyst’s views they are sometimes immensely enlightening while generally being more like, “Seriously WTF?!” Far more interesting for the we all have these kinds of issues angle (not explicitly in the book) than the specific issues or analysis Bechtel gives us.

Page by Paige – 4 stars

Recommended by: SQT

The Odyssey – 4 stars

The odyssey The odysseyGareth Hinds; Candlewick Press 2010WorldCatLibraryThingGoogle BooksBookFinder 

Recommended by: Unshelved

I thought this was a very good adaptation. Of course, having read the Odyssey twice now makes it somewhat difficult to judge this as a standalone. I know what happens and may be filling in details that would leave one who hasn’t read it baffled or perplexed.

Sara read it a long time ago and hardly remembers it so perhaps she can provide some commentary on the above. I last read it last fall for a class in which she discussed it in a fair bit of detail.

Based on an author’s note in the book he seems to know his translators and editions so it seemed pretty accurate and complete.

Habibi – 5 stars

Recommended by: ?

Feynman – 4 stars

Recommended by: Margaret Heller

Wonderstruck – 5 stars

Wonderstruck WonderstruckBrian Selznick; Scholastic 2011WorldCatLibraryThingGoogle BooksBookFinder 

Recommended by: Reading his previous book, The Invention of Hugo Cabret, which I also gave 5 stars.

Not really a graphic novel but close.

What can I say without giving the book away? Not much.

It is lovely and has many items we librarians will love, including an homage to the Dewey Decimal System. I wish I could say more but most anything I did say would give away far too much about this wonderful, slowly intertwining tale of two kids who lived 50 years apart.

I will say that it is very sad in several parts. If you are not crying you may not be human.

Thus, recommendations so far this year: 6 via Unshelved, 5 via browsing public library, 3+ via my wife (SQT), 1 via Margaret Heller, 1 via reading the author’s previous book (and SQT and Jen!!), and one unknown.

But I’m betting that several of the ones recommended by my wife were recommended to her by Unshelved. I know I read about them there before she got them from the library. If you do not follow Unshelved Book Club then you might want to consider it; they cover a lot more than graphic novels.

Horror stories, westerns, Egypt, ancient Greece, the Arab world, Brazil, Hispanic culture, memory, life and death, vampires, brothels, Canadiana, physics, psychiatry and psychology, big egos, and more. A fairly diverse group of reading materials, if I say so myself.

I am looking forward to reading several more before the year is out.

 

Petty and Florido, Bloody Chester

Bloody Chester Bloody ChesterJ.T. Petty; First Second 2012WorldCatLibraryThingGoogle BooksBookFinder 

I read about this book this last Sunday via the ever intriguing Unshelved Book Club. I requested it from our library and since it was in at my branch I was able to pick it up a day or two later.

I liked this a lot. The illustrations by Hilary Florido are excellent; the faces are particularly expressive and really help to tell the story. The use of color—by Hilary Sycamore—is highly effective and I appreciate how it mostly contrasts with the covers, which are red, orange, yellow and black and white. The colors inside are mostly earth tones and pastels, with some deep purples in night scenes.

It is a short book and a quick read; it took me a little longer to read than it did to warm a can of soup and eat it for lunch. The story is self-contained but open-ended enough that there certainly could be a follow-up. I would definitely read one.

“Bloody Chester” Kates is also known as “Lady” Kates once his last name becomes known in the rough frontier railroad town he lives in. He is just a kid who, although once feared, now takes a beating most days. He’s hired to burn down what is supposedly a ghost town so the railroad can move forward. The Chinese and African-American workers are a superstitious lot and won’t go near it. What he finds there and how he deals with it is what both drives the story and leaves it open.

If you like your stories complex and not a simple black-and-white, if you like your heroes flawed and not even really heroic, if you like a bit of the bad guy mixed in with the good guy and vice versa, then this story is for you.

“I don’t hate anybody but I hate you. Let go of my horse.”

It is published by First Second Books who, based on what I’ve read so far, publish excellent books. I have read Anya’s Ghost and Feynman and look forward to reading others. I do want to say to Macmillan, though, that you are running a crap ass website on First Second’s behalf. There is so much wrong with it that site that it is hard to find books one knows are published by First Second. Please get your act together. You will sell more books that way.

Revell, Tantivy

Tantivy TantivyDonald Revell; Alice James Books 2012WorldCatLibraryThingGoogle BooksBookFinder 

Found this at the public library when Sara discovered a much larger area of new books than the smaller area facing towards the center of the floor. I grabbed this and two other new books of poetry, along with the graphic novels and CDs I was checking out.

I recognized Donald Revell’s name but could not place it. Once I got home and did some poking I realized he had translated the edition of Rimbaud’s The Illuminations that I have. He has done several other translations and has published 11 books of poetry and two books of criticism (bio on back cover). No doubt I have read other poems he translated and have come across the odd poem by him here and there but this is the first book of his that I have read.

I want to say that it sucks but what do I know? I do know that it isn’t for me. The world is surreal enough that I see little need for surrealist poetry. Perhaps I’ll grow into it (or some of it) at some point as I do like a little of the surrealistic in other art forms on occasion. Earlier this year I read Surrealist Love Poems, ed. by Mary Ann Caws and I didn’t particularly care for it either. I did like a few poems in it, though, as love is in itself often surreal.

I also did not care much for The Illuminations, sadly, and while reading Tantivy I found myself wondering how much of that came from Rimbuad and how much from Revell. I think (and read) about translation a fair bit seeing as I am pretty much monolingual and I do want to experience other takes on the world. E.g., see this review of Selected Translations by W.S. Merwin by Joe Winkler that I read recently. Read the review, that is; the book is on order via ILL.

If you like surrealistic poetry or know already that you like Donald Revell’s work then check Tantivy out. Otherwise, you are on your own as to whether you read it.

Kundera, identity

Identity IdentityMilan Kundera; HarperFlamingo 1998WorldCatRead OnlineLibraryThingGoogle BooksBookFinder 

This is a smallish book at 168 pages and 8.5” x 5.75” in hardback with reasonably large type. Yet I had to almost force myself to read it. I stumbled across it the first time I browsed COCC’s Barber Library’s shelves with my new patron card a couple weeks back.

I truly enjoyed The Unbearable Lightness of Being although I read it for a grad sociology class on lived morality so my engagement with it was a little different. [See my blog post: The Unbearable Lightness of Being and morality]

A couple of years later I read The Joke and gave it 5 stars. I have also read two of Kundera’s books of criticism/lit theory, The Art of the Novel, which I gave 5 stars, and The Curtain, which I only gave 3. So I guess you could say that I generally enjoy Kundera. I do have plans to read other novels of his.

This book seemed very different. While you can sort of tell that it is Kundera it is also hard to see it as being his. I think it has to do with how telegraphed every topic he touches on is. Normally, or at least in the books I have read, he can go on at great length about something. There may even be whole sections of the book that are “about” a topic; e.g., kitsch in The Unbearable Lightness of Being. There is none of that here. Everything of interest is more like a drive by shooting with limited ammo. He throws out something interesting with a bullet or three in your general direction and then is gone, down the street and around the corner.

Some of these interesting teasers involve surveillance, friendship, daddies vs. fathers, three kinds of boredom, the mistaking of one’s loved one for someone else, ‘little boy’ as loaded future, is the loved one with others the same loved one as with only oneself, nostalgia for the present other, and of course, (loosely) woven throughout these, identity.

Most of these occurred in the first half of the book. There are 50 chapters in the 168 pages of the book and all of those things I mentioned came from the first 26 of them. I only made short notes on chapter 29 and 30 and they were actually directly related to the plot and not actually ‘interesting’ things.

Not all ideas need extended discursions—I know that—but several of these would have benefitted from a more Kunderian treatment.

All in all, I was disappointed in this book. I now fully understand my friend’s review, “As with Ignorance, I have no recollection of reading this.” I expect the same will be said by me in a year or two.

 

wood music (poem)

I realized that I have never put my only published poem on my blog. In early 2011 I submitted 5 poems to annual contest of The Iowa Poetry Association for residents of Iowa as a first-time entrant with three in the Adult General category and two i the haiku category.

The following poem was selected in Adult General:

wood music

the music of the forest is old
old as the wood elves from which it has sprung

streaming through the canopy
light and ephemeral as a mote
caught in a ray of autumn sunlight

yet solid and strong as the ancient oak
to which the lungwort has tenaciously clung.

tonight, by the light of the Blood Moon
the wood elves will hunt
their ashen bows tautly strung.

quiet as a shaft of moonlight
clear and bright on the forest floor,

slowly, reverentially, they will stalk
driving the stag forward
until arrow and heart meet as one.

Travel Moon will guide them home
joyous wood music flowing from flute
words from lips sounding, unsung.

the elves of the forest are old
old as the wood music from which they have sprung.

 

Lindner, Mark R. “Wood Music.” Lyrical Iowa 2011 (2011): 68. Print.

I wrote this to put inside a greeting card I gave Sara the previous year. I had bought several cards each with a specific fairy on it–wood fairy, moon fairy, etc.–to give her. To me, they looked more like elves than fairies so for this card I took the liberty of making it a wood elf instead. [Yes, I did in fact play D&D and I played a fair few elves or half elves.] For whatever reason, I chose to send it in for the contest and it was selected, along with many others from other people.