Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Heat Stroke?

Three weeks ago the Dormouse, spent hours covering each keyboard in the lab with an expensive cover. Condoms for keyboards, the ultimate in protective gear! Within a few days we began to realize that the students were ripping of the covers and tossing them aside. When we confronted the students, we received an interesting answer. "I didn't like it," a student said, "so I took it off." No remorse. No concern. Not even an expression of guilt upon being caught in the act. No, we got a bored expression and the attitude that the destruction was our faulty for annoying the kids with the covers in the first place. Now, without the covers, children have started turning keys up side down and stealing keys from neighboring keyboards. Why do they do this? Why to spell out such side splitting phrases as "TAKE IT UP THE REAR" or "MY MONKEYS LIKE TESTIES". Wow, such elegance and wisdom from our future! Tomorrow's world leaders can use keyboard keys to make out pornographic haikus. I'm just delighted at how bright our future appears from this side of the calendar! Attitudes are flying, learning is being scorned, and teens are sucking face behind the library stacks. Many of the teachers have already flown to Bermuda, at least in their own imaginations. Hell, the kids may be lying on the beach next to them for all I know.

There are many ideas as to why the kids behave this way:
  • "It's spring and children go a little nutty in the spring."

Ok. So it's a hormone thing? Sex, drugs, vandalism, and synapses firing away.

  • "It's the hot weather."

Ah, a form of heat stroke? Global warming getting revenge on us by regressing our youth into dung flinging orangutangs.

  • "There are only 14 days of school left."

As plausible as the other ideas are I really think it comes down to this one. School is almost over and everyone has stopped caring. 14 days of school left, with the last two not really counting anyway because of graduation and tests. It doesn't matter really. The kids will be done in 14 days and they are excited. They are also rude and prone to practical joking in there joyousness. Growing up isn't easy when your an adult, it's harder when your a kid. We put so much pressure on them to get into good colleges and get rewarding careers, but they are only kids. So maybe their not so insane for acting out. Maybe that's the real reason or maybe there isn't one - psychological, biological, or otherwise. I have no answer. I have no winner. I can not collect my $200. Do not pass go, but please get the hell out of the way as the bell is about to ring!

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Sabriel by Garth Nix

Sabriel is a wonderful fantasy, a little dark but well written with a fairly unique story. The title character is the daughter of a powerful charter mage known only as Abhorsen. He is a type of guardian between the realms of life and death. Sabriel has spent most of her life attending a boarding school, outside of the walls that separate the modern lands from the Old Kingdom. She has been sheltered and kept safe from the magic and the creatures that roam in the lands of her birth. Now, however, something is terribly wrong. Dark creatures are crossing over the wall, and Sabriel's father has gone missing.

It was my very first year in the library when I discovered Sabriel by Garth Nix. The dark hardcover book was nestled into it's shelf waiting for our winter inventory. I picked it up and asked the March Hare and the Mad Hatter if they had ever read it. Neither had, but they had heard good things about it. You see, there are so many books within a library's walls that it is near impossible for a librarian to read them all. Sometimes we must relay on other peoples' opinions. That was why the March Hare suggested I read it, at least someone in the library would have knowledge of the book.

So I read it over Christmas break, over the course of a 16 our love affair. I barely stopped to eat a sandwich. I was engrossed in every line. I stayed up all night not wanting to put it down, but not wanting it to end either. I cried. It had been so long since a book had this much of an impact on me. When I closed the cover it was like saying farewell to a good friend. As soon as school started up again, I started to read the sequel. When I was transferred to the elementary school a few months later, the Tea Party Trio purchased the entire trilogy for me as a present. This book and it's series had changed my life. I began to read other children's authors. I've added many YA novels to my home library since. I try and read all those the kids recommend to me. Sabriel is popular enough. Many of the kids try and like it. For me though, Sabriel is a passion because it started it all.

Book Description
Since childhood, Sabriel has lived outside the walls of the Old Kingdom, away from the power of Free Magic, and away from the Dead who refuse to stay dead. But now her father, the Mage Abhorson, is missing, and Sabriel must cross into that world to find him. With Mogget, whose feline form hides a powerful, perhaps malevolent spirit, and Touchstone, a young Charter Mage, Sabriel travels deep into the Old Kingdom. There she confronts an evil that threatens much more than her life'and comes face to face with her own hidden destiny. . . Garth Nix's first young adult novel, Sabriel was recently nominated for the Aurealis Award for Excellence in Science Fiction in Australia.

Monday, May 29, 2006

What Party DId I Attend?

So our big family Memorial day blast was a great success. So much in fact that blogs throughout the Tri-State area have been composed in it's praise. K went on and on about the wild rave that ran rampant through my suburban backyard. Wow! L wrote about the friendly neighborhood picnic, with good friends and good drinks. Both sound like great parties. Now, I don't know what parties they attended but I don't remember the events they describe. That's not true. I remember karaoke. I was there for that. The couches were alive with the sound of music, off key and slightly abused music but it was still music. I remember the food - J did an excellent job on that. I remember staying up until 5 in the morning. Yet, the party I remember consisted of family and friends having a good time. I remember playing with our puppy and our 5 year old nephew. I had not a drop to drink. I did not know there was a separate party going on behind the scenes. I did not know there was puke in the bushes! What party did I attend?

Friday, May 26, 2006

The Tale of Despereaux by Kate Dicamillo

Love and forgiveness. Dark and light. Opposites coming together for balance. These seem to be the thoughts at the center of The Tale of Despereaux : Being the Story of a Mouse, a Princess, Some Soup, and a Spool of Thread by Kate Dicamillo. I read Despereaux to a third grade class when it was chosen as the Newbery Medal Book of 2004. Most of the children seemed enchanted by it. I wasn't completely sure why. It was a charming story but nothing about it made me overly excited. I originally chalked it up to age. Perhaps I was too old to grasp the true charm of Despereaux.

A few weeks ago I listened to the audio version as read by Graeme Malcolm. I had heard mixed reviews concerning the audio version. I LOVED it and I think I now understand my students reaction. While Despereaux is a good story, there is something it gains in the reading of it aloud. It is a book to be shared! Despereaux is one of those books that should be read aloud and explored by parent and child together. Suddenly, upon this realization, Despereaux became a very different book in my eyes.

Despereaux is a type of fairytale and contains three separate but intertwining story lines:

  • The story of Despereaux, a small mouse born with his ears too big and his eyes open. He breaks all mouse laws, loves all things beautiful, and is condemned for speaking to a human princess.
  • The story of Roscuro, a rat who delights in the torment of others. He is born into the dark world of the dungeon but longs for the light of the upper world and the wonderful soup contained within that world.
  • The story of Miggery Sow, a farm girl who longs to be a princess. She is sold by her father, abused by the man who purchases her, and used as a pawn by Roscuro.

My only area of dislike was the story of Miggery. There is no escape for poor Miggery in the tale of her world. She is abused. She is neglected. She receives no love. Later she is depicted as slow-witted, which seems to be how she is duped by Roscuro. I don't think that is true though. I think Miggery falls for the rat's plans because he shows her a kind of twisted kindness and seems to respect her. Miggery gets very little respect or kindness anywhere else in her world. Now, the abuse and reactions given to Miggery by other characters is probably very appropriate to the Middle Ages. Miggery's plight does reflect the truth that not all lives are happy. It's all true. It's all real. It's all appropriate to the story. Still, it bothered me.

All in all, Desperaux is a wonderful story. The story was charming, challenging, and fun to read - better if shared aloud.

Card catalog description:
The adventures of Desperaux Tilling, a small mouse of unusual talents, the princess that he loves, the servant girl who longs to be a princess, and a devious rat determined to bring them all to ruin.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Two "Birds" Killing Me With One Stone

A nest of birds have taken up residence outside my bedroom window in the last few weeks. They sing beautiful arias to welcome the sun each and every morning, at 4 am. They do not cease for weekends. They do not notice that I have to be up by 5 am to get ready and drive 33 miles to work in a school of 700 preteen students. They seem to have very little understanding of what my snooze button means to me. Fifteen more minutes, please. Just fifteen more minutes of sleep might help me stay sane!

J loves me! I rejoice in this fact, as I to love him. J likes his nightly television - CSI, ER, Law & Order, Crossing Jordan. He has to watch. WE have to watch, staying up late almost every night to do so. Never mind that we are now in reruns. Never mind that CSI and Law & Order are on ALL the time. Seriously, do you realize that at any given moment of any day, one of these shows is on somewhere in the world? Right now, while you read this, one of them is starting. Some crime must be investigated and J is determined to solve them! The survival of the world rests on his shoulders. Civilizations will end if he doesn't see just who's fingerprint was on the gun recovered from the aging model's mansion. Doesn't he realize yet that it's always the same? Miss Scarlet committed the murder. In the study. With the revolver. However, this late night obsession with crime dramas gets worse. When they are over, J wants to spend time together in all those ways married people are suppose to spend time together - Talking about the truck's oil change. Asking me to do laundry. Wanting to know why I spent so much at the bookstore last week. You know, all that adult stuff. What was that about handcuffs? Never mind. I am so tired. 4 hours of sleep don't cut it for me anymore.

It has all started to blur together. Day. Night. Birds' gentle morning greetings. Husband's sweet whispered good-nights. Get into bed. Get out of bed. Alarm clock buzzing relentlessly. Hungry birds chirping and demanding my soul for breakfast. Husband needing just a trace of human contact. Nature and nurture playing havoc with my sleep cycle. Love and life demanding my sanity. It all screams at me to enjoy my life and sleep when I'm dead.

All I can think at 4 am is this:
  • Me.
  • The candlestick.
  • In the Bedroom.
  • Birds or J.
  • Fifteen more minutes of sleep.

There's a CSI episode for you!

Monday, May 22, 2006

Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card

I think in many areas of the book world many genres get a bum rap. Romances are trashy, Fantasy is childish, Science Fiction is for teen boys, and mysteries are for bored accountants who want more excitement. As a librarian I think I've heard almost all the stereotypes there are about books, I think I have also heard all the librarian stereotypes. Yes, some of the stereotypes may appear to be true but they are generalizations. Remember, there are four of us who work in our school's library and I think I am the only one who EVER sported a real bun. Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card is one of those books that make me glad that I have never paid attention to the stereotypes. It's also one of those books that make me love the genre of Science Fiction.

I've heard it referred to as a cult classic, and as it's now been around for over 20 I guess I can see why some call it that. I can't say if it is or it isn't. Lots of great books seem to get this label when they become wide read. I should rephrase that statement, lots of great genre books seem to get that label when they get a wide readership. You hardly ever hear about a "mainstream" or "literary" book getting a cult following, but genre fiction seems to be full of them. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, Ray Bradbury, Tanith Lee, and so many other authors of different genres get lumped into this category. Wouldn't it be better to say their books are just fantastic reads? Ah well, off my soap box.

Ender's Game is another one of those books people seem to either love or hate. Taking place in a war torn future for Earth, Ender is a child genius. He is Earth's last chance in an upcoming future battle to save the human race from total extinction. The book deals with guilt, family, politics, friendship, loss of innocence, and so much more to it than that. It is a coming of age novel. It is an action book. It is a science fiction mantra. It is NOT for everyone, but perhaps everyone should at least try it. Card's writing is not overly detailed, but for me that's a plus. I had difficulty with another good book, Eragon by Christopher Paolini, because I felt overwhelmed by description.

Remember what I said about some stereotypes appearing true? Well Ender's Game is labeled as Science Fiction. I work in a middle school library. Ender's Game is very high on the "I Loved this book" list with many teen boys. So that stereotype fits this book, teen boys do read Ender's Game. However, so do our girl students and teachers of both sexes. Hmm. The reviews are mixed among all the readers. Some like it and some do not. Just like all the "literary" books on our shelves. This brings me back to a point I've made a few times in my reviews. You never really know what a reader will truly love. Book publishers can guess by what sells best. I cringe at this because I believe it leads to formula fiction, some good and some bad. Librarians can guess based on what circulates in a library and by what a reader has enjoyed previously, but still you can't always win. Who hasn't had a friend declare the virtues of a book, only to read it and think their friend is crazy? All I can do is tell you how great this book it. The rest is up to you. Try it. If you don't, you may be missing one of the greatest books I have ever read. If you do read it and hate it, then you can call me nuts. Go ahead, I don't mind if you think I am.

Book Description:
Winner of the Hugo and Nebula Awards

In order to develop a secure defense against a hostile alien race's next attack, government agencies breed child geniuses and train them as soldiers. A brilliant young boy, Andrew "Ender" Wiggin lives with his kind but distant parents, his sadistic brother Peter, and the person he loves more than anyone else, his sister Valentine. Peter and Valentine were candidates for the soldier-training program but didn't make the cut -young Ender is the Wiggin drafted to the orbiting Battle School for rigorous military training.

Ender's skills make him a leader in school and respected in the Battle Room, where children play at mock battles in zero gravity. Yet growing up in an artificial community of young soldiers Ender suffers greatly from isolation, rivalry from his peers, pressure from the adult teachers, and an unsettling fear of the alien invaders. His psychological battles include loneliness, fear that he is becoming like the cruel brother he remembers, and fanning the flames of devotion to his beloved sister.

Is Ender the general Earth needs? But Ender is not the only result of the genetic experiments. The war with the Buggers has been raging for a hundred years, and the quest for the perfect general has been underway for almost as long. Ender's two older siblings are every bit as unusual as he is, but in very different ways. Between the three of them lie the abilities to remake a world. If, that is, the world survives.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Not Even Bread and Water!

HELP! Call in the national guard, the marines, the FBI, Spiderman! Just send someone, for I have been taken prisoner by the care and love of the Dormouse, March Hare, and the Mad Hatter! I was chained to a circulation desk, surrounded by books and students by the best intentions of my coworkers. Even prisoners get at least 10 minutes in the yard! I should explain. It was partially my own fault.
Sometime over the last day or so, I sprained my ankle pretty bad. It's too the point where even elevating my foot hurts. Last night I got little sleep because of the pain. It hurts to walk. It hurts to sit. I can't get comfortable. Obviously I went to work, or there would be little mention of the tea party trio in this post. What can I say? I had my reasons for going.

  • Bookfair started yesterday and I knew we would be busy in the library. All hands on deck! All able bodies to your battle stations, so to speak. Books on sale, mobs of students with money, and the big 8th grade project going on at the same time - chaos can ensue. The days after bookfair always look like the ruins of a glorious battle. The days of bookfair are the battle! I needed and wanted to be there.
  • Bookfair! Yes, I am listing it again. By now most of you realize I am an admitted book fiend. Weekend was coming. I needed books. No, I could not have found something to read in my 800 volume home library. If you have any doubt in that statement than you either do not read this blog enough or you are not a book fiend.
  • Staying home I would have been with Holly. Yes I love my puppy, but she is only content to sleep all day and control her bathroom needs when we are at work. If Holly has any idea that someone is home with her than she suddenly get the energy level of a 2 year old doped up on 24 pots of black coffee. If she hears someone sniff on the other side of the house, Holly's bladder of steel becomes the size of a pea. I couldn't see ignoring her. Staying home would not have been restful.
  • My sick time is limited, too many migraines and not enough aspirin.
  • I am stubborn and can't stand being bored. I am after all a princess.

So, I went to work and had to tell my bosses and coworkers why it was that I was limping. I was ordered to plant my butt in my chair and elevate my foot. I wanted to retrieve some of our equipment from a concert last night. I thought if I had the use of two students that I could retrieve it myself. I thought wrong! The Mad Hatter took the students and went to get it herself. I wanted to go down to the office. Nope. "SIT DOWN!", said the March Hare. Gods, I wonder if this is how Holly feels when we command her to sit? I usually go out and get us all lunch. The Dormouse insisted this would not happen today. Part of the problem was that all three of them had a meeting, which left me alone for an hour or so. With all the confusion and chaos, lunch really never happened. Bathroom breaks never really happened. It got to the point where all I wanted was a cigarette and even that never happened. As for my partners in books and their drill sergeant concerns? They were so good at it that after a few hours even the students started commanding me to get into my chair and stay there.

I spoke to J on the phone, he told me to go get construction paper and follow his directions. I did. The tea party trio came back from their meeting to find me still sitting behind the circulation desk. I sat where they had left me, only now I was behind a set of construction paper bars and a sign that said, "Don't feed the prisoners!"

I may sometimes be overwhelmed and wish I hadn't transferred back to the middle school. I may sometimes be concerned about the changes that are coming closer every day. I often reflect on how I am not paid enough for all the work I do. I do worry. I do get angry. Yet there are days, like today, where I am reminded why I enjoy working with these people. These are the days I remember that I always voluntarily join in the insane tea parties. I love these three characters. They are my family bonded by books and madness. They are my friends.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Memories of a Ghost Hunter

"Begin at the beginning,"
the King said, very gravely,
"and go on till you come to the end: then stop."
-Lewis Carroll, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland
It is the silliest thing in the world that I find myself troubled by today. With all that is going on in my life, and all the projects I try to juggle, I find myself mourning the loss of a yahoo group.
In 2001, my best friend, L started a yahoo group dedicated to all things ghostly and paranormal. The time was ripe for it. The other groups dedicated to our area of the US were not filling the needs L had. I had joined these other groups with her, only to agree about there lack of appropriateness for us. She wanted an open forum, a type of salon in which ideas could be exchanged and taught with others. She told me her idea and then asked me to start it with her. It was a natural progression for us, we'd been doing it for years in the collecting of paranormal stories associated with our college. We had almost always been partners in our friendship, everything from writing to alluded crime. Why not ghost hunting?
We ran the group for almost 5 years, with almost 250 members - about 50 of which were steadily active. During that time we ran a website, a online newsletter, and bi-yearly meetings. We made a small name for our group, were interviewed for news articles, quoted in a few books, I had an article published in one book, and L was interviewed on a radio talk show. Through it all we were partners and I loved most moments of it. I think L did too. We had our 15 minutes of fame, and it lasted 4 1/2 years.
What no one tells you with fame, any type of fame - local or global, is how hard it gets to keep people happy. What had been a project we loved, got to be a cross to carry. Group members started fights with each other and screamed that we didn't have enough meetings or hunts. Never mind the fact that this was an online group, and they were lucky we even bothered to have the in person meetings we did, hardly any other group did. They didn't care about the events we did plan and never came to chats or programs. They screamed and made nasty comments at L, each other, or myself. Worse part about it were that at least the screamers made noise. So many other members were like sheep, only mumbling in agreement or quiet all together.
A year ago, L brought it all to an end. She quit the group she had started and turned it over to another member, one many of the screamers seemed to support. We had talked about her leaving. I, myself, was not too happy with the way the group had gone and had thought to leave. L was done, she'd had enough abuse and childish behavior. I don't blame her, but I was a bit hurt. I felt betrayed that she "gave" all our work to someone else. Now I know she didn't really give them anything but at the time I was hurt. I did stay on to help the transition but any use I had was taken away from me one after another. No need for chats. No need for me to moderate anything. So I stayed on silently, just to watch.
Today, the owner L had chosen, locked down the site. She removed me as moderator and set the controls so no one could access the posts - it's completely shut down. She did send me a little email explaining why. She said she hoped the close wouldn't upset me. Why should it? I haven't been allowed to do much in a year.
However, thinking about it, I am a little hurt. The founded date on the group is September. 2, 2001. Our start date, not hers and her group. It doesn't belong to the group that abused L and drove me to quiet watching. They started April 2005. They took it all, they shouldn't get our start date. They shouldn't be allowed to claim they existed for 6 years, only one. They shouldn't have sole access to L and my earlier posts - 5 years of work and discussions.
It doesn't seem fair, and I am hurt. I'm sad. I am, at last, forced to let go of a project I loved. I wish L had deleted the whole damn thing instead of be honorable and passing it on.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Midnight for Charlie Bone by Jenny Nimmo

The fabulous powers of the Red King were passed down through his descendants, after turning up quite unexpectedly, in someone who had no idea where they came from. This is what happened to Charlie Bone, and to some of the children he met behind the grim, gray walls of Bloor's Academy. Charlie Bone has discovered an unusual gift-he can hear people in photographs talking! His scheming aunts decide to send him to Bloor Academy, a school for genius's where he uses his gifts to discover the truth despite all the dangers that lie ahead.

Let me start off by say, yes - I did read Midnight for Charlie Bone by Jenny Nimmo. It came highly recommended by several students and one of the library's Media Specialists, the March Hare to be precise. I enjoyed it. The book is quick and interesting. As the first book in the Children of the Red King series, it sets the pace nicely for the following books. There are about 4 or 5 of them now in total. There will inevitably be comparisons between Charlie Bone and the Harry Potter Series, so let's get that out of the way.

I relied heavily on Charlie Bone when I worked in an elementary school library. The kids loved it, and while I may have simply thought it a nice book, it never mattered to them. I had 2nd graders who wanted so badly to read Harry Potter, their older siblings and the movies only made this desire deepen. However, the Harry Potter books can be very advanced reading and many of my younger students were upset that they couldn't read the books on their own. Behold the beauty of the Charlie Bone books. They are NOT dumb down versions of the Harry Potter books. While there is similarities in a magical boy going off to a school for "gifted"children both series have their own stories.

I highly recommend Charlie Bone for readers between 6-11 years of age. It may also interest some older readers who can't wait for another Harry Potter book!

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Dead Muses?

"What is the use of a book,'" thought Alice,
"without pictures or conversation?"
-Lewis Carroll, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland
Ever since the loss of my database of writing, I have felt like a ship set adrift without sails. I'm not sure if it's because so much was lost and I am hesitant to try to rebuild, or if I have truly come to the end of my creativity. Now I am sure part of this lack of interest rests solely on the boredom I have been feeling, "ennui" according to my best friend L.
In her own blog entry, L reminds me that there is always the seed of creativity if we bother to just put pen to paper. This may be true for some writers, it may be true of all writers. At this time I can not say for sure. I hearken back to the conversation I had with my brother JT, there are only so many ideas. I also look back on my own displeasure with the new books soon to be published. I am suffering from a set disinterest as both a writer and a reader. It may seem as if I'm just whining but the truth is I have never felt this large a disinterest in all my years.
Books have always been important to me, which does not surprise many considering my choice of careers as a middle school librarian. Books were my long time friends, my secret worlds of escape, and my greatest addiction. Writing gave me inky children of nouns, verbs, and adjectives. Within the realm of my own imagination, whole worlds blossomed and it was people with the many characters that whispered their lives to me while I dreamed. Now the people have grown quiet and the worlds are dark.
What do we do as writers when the inspiration leaves us? Where do we find it again? It may be that my own disinterest and fears may be what is killing off my muse, then again it seems to be rampant in the writers I've spoken to. L seems to have found her slippery muse, and I wish her all the luck in the world. Her talent in writing is obvious. Her creativity is fluid. Yet, she seems to suffer from the blocks and boredom that strike so many writers - just as it has stuck down myself. She may overcome it. Then again, it may never return to torment her. This is always something that amazes me. Yes, the books coming out may hold little interest for me but these books authors' have finished their works. They have overcome what seems to affect so many writers. How do they do it? How do you hold on to the story?

Monday, May 15, 2006

For Edgar by Sheldon Rusch

The crime scene was a work of art: a blanched human skull impaled to a tree in a public park and trailing a brightly colored ribbon. The brilliant twist was the delicate scarab, hand-painted a lustrous gold. State Police Special Agent Elizabeth Taylor Hewitt recognizes the grim tableau - only the first in a series of slayings that pay tribute to the tales of Edgar Allan Poe, committed by a madman known only as The Raven." Trying to anticipate the murderer's next move, Hewitt seeks the help of Professor Scott Gregory, her former lover and an expert on Poe. Struggling to understand the ghoulish motives of the killer - by delving into the twisted imagination of literature's macabre genius - they are quickly caught up in a race against time, as Hewitt herself becomes a pawn in The Raven's triumphant endgame.

Hmmm. What to say about For Edgar by Sheldon Rusch? I liked it. It kept my attention. I will probably never read it again. For Edgar is well written and deals with an interesting plot - a killer is using Edgar Allan Poe's works as the muse for multiple murders. The main character is Special Agent Elizabeth Taylor Hewitt and, besides her fictional parents rather absurd baby name choices, is well rounded and mostly fleshed out. The story is a bit formulaic, there's really nothing new here for dedicated mystery fans, but the casual mystery reader or Poe buff should find a good weekend read within the 320 pages.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Heart to Heart with the Red King.

"The time has come," the Walrus said,
"To talk of many things:
Of shoes--and ships--and sealing-wax--
Of cabbages--and kings--
And why the sea is boiling hot--
And whether pigs have wings."
- Lewis Carroll, Alice's Adventures Through the Looking Glass

So my younger brother, JT, is visiting again. This evening we conducted another one of our deep conversations. I was lamenting the lost storylines and missing plots that I have been suffering through. JT was as always. . .Well, um, helpful. . .At the very least he was philosophical.

He said that maybe I can't write anything and am plagued by boredom because there are no more stories to write. He said maybe they were all used up. Then he started saying what if we were all just characters in someone else's unfinished novel. This would explain our boredom, after all - if the writer just stopped and left us halfway through the action, what would we be left to do? We wouldn't know what to do because the writer has to tell us what to do. We would be left to some tortuous form of life where we would only be able to perform the last action we were written to do. Not such a bad analogy for most of our daily lives, the tedium and repetitive cycles of modern times. Not even a bad analogy for God, for a writer is sort of a god to the small fictional world they created.

Of course all this enlightened thinking drove me to almost roll my eyes but some of what he said may have a valid point. There do seem to be only so many plots and I, myself, have complained about the lack of exciting new books coming out in the next few months.

So what do other writers think? Are we running out of fresh ideas? Where do we get our ideas from, if they are all gone?

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Wicked by Gregory Maguire

Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West by Gregory Maguire seems to be one of those books readers either love or hate. Why? I think it's do to a mixture of life experiences, expectations, and beliefs. Does this review begin to sound like a psychology article? I'll explain.

Wicked is a book full of heavy morals, political views, religion, and the role of destiny. There is also highly descriptive events that deal with sex and sexual perversions, making this a rough book for children as a group - although it may be alright for some teens. I bring this up because of the musical. (Which I love and will be talking about in greater detail in a future post.)

For those who have been living under a rock, Wicked was made into a highly successful musical. The plot with in the book, which consists of many stories and topics, was simplified for the musical. It had to be, of course, it's a three hour musical based on a 450 page book! The musical has some of the political and moralistic flow that oozes out of most of the book, but it is truly the story of the friendship between Glinda and Elphaba, the witches of North and West respectively. The best way to put it is this: Wicked the Musical is the Disney version of Wicked the book. Just as the Grimms' fairytales were dark and disturbing, so is Wicked the book. I've seen lots of reviews for this book, some fawning and some damning. It seems that many of those unhappy with the book where disappointed because they expected something more like the musical.

Beyond the musical's influence, some people are put off by the way Maguire writes. He does not tie up all the loose ends and he doesn't finish his endings with finality. Wicked has some ends tied very nicely - if you can wade through the difficult prose and strange plot you will find out the origins of the Cowardly Lion, the Tin Man, the ruby slippers, and the winged monkeys. Other story lines just float out into the ether without resolution. It is not a book for enjoyment alone, there are deeply disturbing questions raised and imagery that is hard to push aside. I read this back in 1995, when it was first published. I read it again every few years. I love this book and yet I really don't know why. It doesn't make me happy. I know how the book ends, we all do. There is only one way for it to end, Elphaba has to die.

Book Description:
Years before Dorothy and her dog crash-land, another little girl makes her presence known in Oz. This girl, Elphaba, is born with emerald-green skin -- no easy burden in a land as mean and poor as Oz, where superstition and magic are not strong enough to explain or to overcome the natural disasters of flood and famine. But Elphaba is smart, and by the time she enters the university in Shiz, she becomes a member of a charmed circle of Oz' most promising young citizens.

Elphaba's Oz is no utopia. The Wizard's secret police are everywhere. Animals -- those creatures with voices, souls and minds -- are threatened with exile. Young Elphaba, green and wild and misunderstood, is determined to protect the Animals -- even it means combating the mysterious Wizard, even if it means risking her single chance at romance. Even wiser in guilt and sorrow, she can find herself grateful when the world declares her a witch. And she can even make herself glad for that young girl from Kansas.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Depression or Saving the World?

Seemly, at least to the online community, I fell off the face of the earth. My days, have been swallowed up by work, puppy, online gaming, and a type of bored depression that seems to linger every spring. So it's to the point where I am unsure of the exact reason for my blase feelings. So I thought I should quickly write up an excuse and see if it flys.

  • Work: Stress and Anxiety seem to be permanent fixtures in our library. People laugh at this idea thinking a school library should be stress-free. This is SO not so, especially on a middle school level. Pre-teens, hormones, budgets, books, and teachers make for an interesting atmosphere.
  • Puppy: As good as she is, the warmer weather and longer hours of daylight lead to one hyper puppy. Her 1st birthday arrived and the boyfriend has been out in the park more. Holly is dying for attention and the great outdoors.
  • Online Gaming: The roommate, K, and I have been playing online with the game City of Heroes - a MMORPG that allows you to create a super hero and save the fictional world. We have been addicted to it and have spent every spare moment playing it, both together and alone.
  • Depression: Every spring I am crushed under feelings of anxiety, anger, boredom, and sadness. I can never seem to shake these feelings. Every year seems to be the same.

So these are my excuses and I'm sticking to them! We will see if one of these pan out as a sole reason for my lack of interest in my usual outlets. Books, scrapbooking, movies, all games besides those mentioned above, and blogging - these things hold no allure for me.