On Why I Can’t Be a Travel Blogger | Featuring Reykjavik

screen-shot-2016-11-27-at-10-49-01-amLet’s be honest, I could never be a travel blogger because I suck at timing.  In almost everything, timing is not my thing.   My jokes are typically ill-timed in a moment where people in the conversation have stepped back through the window of their own thoughts and are looking around.  I respond to emails with the same attitude they’re written to me and as soon as I see them (and I get them to my phone so that can create huge lessons in autocorrect and bluntness).  This can be particularly nasty when you spend most of your day with fifteen year olds.  But in blogging and most other small persuasion business endevors it’s all about timing and thus, my foray into travel blogging is short-lived.  Actually it’s exactly like four more posts.

screen-shot-2016-11-27-at-10-48-34-amI also always open these blogs with nothing about the actual blog and I think travel bloggers just get right to it.  In order to prove this point, here are some bloggers that have gone to Iceland that I really used while I was there.

  1. The Young Adventuress
  2. The Wanderlust Blog
  3. Travelettes
  4. The Blonde Abroad
  5. Nomadic Matt
  6. Life with a View
  7. Roadtrip Through Iceland
  8. Fathom Away
The Gray Cat

The Gray Cat

The second day we went to a blogger recommended spot for breakfast.  We discovered that the Icelandic on the door meant The Gray Cat which is perfect for two full-blown cat ladies.  The breakfast was one of only two very American things that I ate in Iceland.  The plate was FULL of eggs and salsa covered potatoes and The Gray Cat was stocked with books; Icelandic and English.

The Gray Cat (it's right across from The Culture House)

The Gray Cat (it’s right across from The Culture House)

I had a Swiss Mocha which is when I discovered that Icelanders serve hot cocoa in a glass with a straw.  There were TWO people working, literally.  What I imagine is a very quaint kitchen in the back with the sounds of spoon against skillet and a little blonde woman in an apron is the definition of this cafe.  At this spot is when I really put the pieces together that Icelanders are a blunt, straightforward bunch.  What I would normally recognize as a general coldness is really just a people that probably don’t have time for frills.

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Reykjavik Harbor

Christine and I thought that maybe because we’re American and we believe that we can conquer anything, move mountains, move West, strike gold, we don’t understand our own smallness in the world. Our own unique thumbprint on the shape of it is more important than the vastness of nature and the things that are truly so much bigger than us and have lasted longer, out-stood our careless misadventures and innovations and just stood. The way that I don’t believe I’m capable of, just yet.

Glo, where I attempted to read the paper

Glo, where I attempted to read the paper

(This is obviously my take and no Icelanders were harmed in the making of this blog because they were truly lovely to us all the time.  In fact, in my next blog, you’ll learn about the box truck man that we want to find to thank again who moved our car out of a dire parallel parking situation and then just waved goodbye).

img_1426I was going to write about our exact misadventures on day two, but I feel like this post is leading me more towards talking about the city of Reykjavik (which I can now actually spell without looking, but still probably don’t say properly).  I loved and hated parts of this city.  It’s a hodgepodge of homes, colors, graffiti, and true backyard fairy gardens.  We barely tapped the tourist section of the city because we knew it would be far too expensive, but we did walk around the backstreets.  We even saw an Obama head in a basement apartment window.  The murals on the sides of buildings were dreamy and thoughtful.  It was never just an image, but something greater, some tall story that said something across languages. Several times, I turned to Christine and said, “I want to show my students this one.”

Cafe Babalou - THE BEST Vegan Carrot Cake

Cafe Babalou – THE BEST Vegan Carrot Cake

We had a wifi hotspot from Route 1 car rental, so we could easily navigate with maps, but by the fourth day we kind of had it figured out.  We knew which fence patterns to turn at, how many streets up from Snorrabraut was the cafe that we loved.  Everything in it would be completely tacky alone, but when it was all together, it was an assortment of the coolest hipster and your grandmother, Cafe Babalou.

We also could navigate straight from any parking spot to Joylato, a gluten free everything, ice cream place that made the ice cream in Kitchen Aid mixers right in front of you.  (I recommend the salted caramel with peanut butter crumbles).

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See what I mean about hipsters and grandma’s house ; Cafe Babalou

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My travel partner and CAKE on Thanksgiving evening.

I have no pictures of Joylato because I suck, but it's delicious and turquoise on the outside!

I have no pictures of Joylato because I suck, but it’s delicious and turquoise on the outside!

Joylato was also one of the first places that I really witnessed the gender neutrality of Iceland.  When you imagine going to a country of Vikings, you think that there will be a clear divide between the feminine and masculine. In Joylato, two men always served us and the shop is inspired by a spiritualist.  So much so, that there were about seven pictures of him hanging in a row with one picture of Jesus.  I googled him to figure out who he was, but still am a little unsure so I won’t say more than that because I don’t want to accidentally shame someone’s values.   I’m not sure why I didn’t think two men could own an ice cream shop, because obviously they can, but I just don’t think that would be as widely seen in America.  We put men on television when they make cakes, (Hey, Cake Boss), so it was interesting for me to see that Iceland welcomed any gender, anything.

We did Happy Hour at the Dillon twice to write down a timeline of our trip. 700 krona wine.

We did Happy Hour at the Dillon twice to write down a timeline of our trip. 700 krona wine.

There were so many reasons to love Reykjavik.  It has a woodsy charm as if the city hadn’t actually taken over the environment, but they were living dual harmony.  It was expensive though.  EX-PEN-SIVE.  We couldn’t really ever eat for less than $25 at every meal.  Our breakfast at The Gray Cat was upwards of $30-$35.  At one point, the last day, on a road trip, we stopped at a convenient store and got a bag of fries, a BAG OF FRIES , for $7 though.  I thought I asked for a medium, but I got a bag and attempted to fill the bag with ketchup. It ended up ripping and spilling fries all over me at a toll with a nice gentlemen who gave us a toilet paper bag. There were so many things to love in Reykjavik that weren’t monetary though.  The line of mountains in the distance, the quotes and city lights, the fact that you always felt safe because Iceland has very little crime, but also there was a clear lack of tension in Reykjavik.  In America, you can almost feel the heat off of people.  We are anxious (particularly with the election) and worried and we have just so much to do, that didn’t exist in Iceland.

Cutest spot in Reykjavik Roasters

Cutest spot in Reykjavik Roasters

Here’s a list of places we ate at, not mentioned in this article, but photographed above:

  1. Glo (vegan and gluten free options)
  2. Reykjavik Roasters (THE coffees spot in Reykjavik).
  3. Pilsa Pulsa (where we ate Thanksgiving Dinner)
  4. The Dillon (you HAVE to hit up their Happy Hour every afternoon).
  5. The Gray Cat (Cute, expensive)
  6. Cafe Babalou (FAVORITE)
  7. Fridheimar Tomato Farm (not in Reykjavik, but the most delicious meal we ate, easily. I will write about this one in a later blog).
  8. The Big Lebowski (American cheeseburger when you need one).

I guess it’s true what they say, “You’re a dipstick if you don’t visit Reykjavik.”

*No one says that.

Next up, Pingvellir pronounced Thing-val-eer

Winter is Coming | Iceland Part 1

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Currently, Christine and I are blogging from the car (we got 4g wifi like ballers and didn’t realize until day 2 that we could actually remove the device from the car and get a hotspot).  We’re trying to decipher the difference between hairy rocks, horses, and sheep out here in the darkness, but mostly it’s just snow, black lava rock and geyser fog. When we googled what word to use after geyser there (smoke, steam, fog, the works) we found out you could order Geyser fog machines for parties and relive the Iceland experience.

image2-1-2Any who, I thought this was the perfect time to capsule our first two days in Iceland.  We’ve hit up all the tourist attractions pretty much these last two days.  The Blue Lagoon turned our hair to straw, and there ain’t no magic conditioner that’s going to turn it back to gold.  Not that this is the only thing we remember from the Blue Lagoon.

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The Blue Lagoon is a geothermal heated hot spring that appears suddenly on the horizon about twenty minutes from the airport.  A few roundabouts later (literally) and you can be out of those cabin air clothes and into a giant salty hot tub.  The silica is a bit overpowering, but they serve drinks at a swim up bar which makes it “hella” worth it.  Plus, drinks everywhere else in Iceland will break the bank, so you might as well choose at least the “comfort” level at The Blue Lagoon because with that level you get a free drink, algae mask, and a towel.  Probably the towel is the most important part of that combination because in winter, Iceland is like a frozen tundra.

image10Plus, trust me, you need the algae mask after a girl in a 1950s flowered bathing cap offers you a silica mud mask and your face dries up like a porous rock. Not saying it wasn’t worth it because it felt great, but I’ve been a piece of sawdust for the last two days.  The cold doesn’t help.  We floated like ghosts through the steam for about three hours, or until pruned, and headed out to forcibly not nap.

The force was with us though because we found our way to the city and had a nice lunch at Glo with liquid nitrogen salted caramel ice cream afterwards at Joyland.

image4What I love about Iceland so far is that there’s so much rich history.  Almost everything is sustainable or made from Green Energy.  It looks like the moon (or what I would imagine that the moon looks like).  You never know when a mountain will just pop up on the side of your car.  We’ve been driving this little roadster called the Suzuki Jimmy and Christine WHIPS it around roundabouts like a bumper car.  And this country is just MAJESTIC.

Tomorrow I’ll write about our hike through the National Park (in which I thought I was cast into Game of Thrones), our first (and probably last) taste of tectonic plate glacial water, the TOMATO FARM, the lies behind Instagram’s Iceland bloggers aka the Northern Lights, and our Suzuki Jimmy. Plus, the discovery made that sunsets and sunrises probably take the same particle amount of beautiful to make you miss home anywhere in the world.

I am fine with being a weed if I’ve broken cement to grow.

I’ve been quiet for a while.  Turns out, a case of homesickness isn’t just for kids at camp.  I moved in early July and have been yearning for cotton fields, and Friday Night Lights since I left.  I also went from living completely alone in the coziness of a country town to getting a new dog, Tuck Finn, and moving three bedrooms smaller with my boyfriend.  It’s a tight squeeze with my main squeeze.

I’ve cried probably every day.

I’ve prayed probably every hour.

And in my living room there’s a quote from Abraham Lincoln sewn into a patchwork frame that says “I have been driven many times upon my knees by the overwhelming conviction that I had nowhere else to go.”  Whatever you believe in, believe in it fully is what I’ve learned these past few weeks.  I’ve lost myself in work.  My Mom asked me if “maybe, you should see someone,” and my friends have heard tears through the phone instead of giggles for about a week.

But today, I made a movement to change all that.  There is power in positive thinking.  I have become a walking – talking – bubblegum-chewing – self-help book.  I’ve decided I will no longer be sad.  I will embrace my new community and the new oldness of it.  I’m in my actual hometown again, but I feel homesick for the place I called home for the last three years.

Homesickness is a strange creature.  I imagine it how I imagine morning sickness.  It’s been named all wrong, it hits suddenly with the force of a locomotive, and it asks for no forgiveness.  One second I can be laughing at a joke and the next second I’m in tears, wilted on the floor of my apartment.  It’s not that I’m depressed, it’s that I feel completely out of place in my setting.  I’m a character meant for the South when I’ve been moved to the rain forest.  I’m also not a city girl.  I escape in big porches. I like to be surrounded by fields.  I want land. Expanse. Space to think and leave crumbs. Roaming space.  I only feel comfortable mind-roaming when I’m in a distance. Here, I can hear the creak of the stairs, the stomp of their work shoes on the wood outside the apartment door. I don’t own this place.  I am not this place.

Isn’t that strange that your “home”town can change?

And when people ask, do you tell them where you “grew up” or do you tell them where you grew up? I became an adult in LBG. I was a woman of strength.  Big girl panties ON THE REGULAR. Moving back to my hometown, I’ve had to find that woman again, and I’m on a new journey to track her down. It’s a bit of a scavenger hunt, but I’m picking berries along the way.

Today was beautiful. Both weather and company. This is about growing while thriving. Sometimes it’s hard to do both at the same time.  Now I believe flowers really do have an  expedition.

Bug Fest:

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Sparkcon:

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This Book is About As Riveting As Watching a Moss Colony Grow.

The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert

Not only is this book heavy handed with botany that at times seems relatively interesting if you believe in spending your life peering through the eye tackle of a microscope, but it is about as boring as watching the growth of a moss colony.  And if there’s one thing I know, it’s moss. My family seems only to be able to grow the fertile little kiwi hairs instead of grass. Thank you, Elizabeth Gilbert, for taking all of my beliefs away that you could actually write fiction as beautiful as a story about yourself.  I stand on the side that you are a one hit wonder with the likes of Vanilla Ice, Harper Lee (who thankfully decided to quit her trial run of writing a book equal to or better than To Kill a Mockingbird), the cast of Seinfeld (New Adventures of Old Christine….seriously), I would love to say the Buffalo Bills, but they have yet to win a Superbowl even though they played in four consecutive, and that band that no one remembers who sang “Tainted Love.”  Someone, anyone…wikipedia that for me.

Moss @ Mountainmoss.com

I’m too tired after making it off the Tahitian island where my last bit of ending anticipation was driven in by sixty more pages of Roger the Dog and conversations indebted to long pauses of useless explanation.  If you think that was the longest, most boring and confusing sentence you’ve ever read, then that might be a reason to pick up Elizabeth Gilbert’s new novel (NY Times Bestselling novel) The Signature of All Things.  At first, I was giving her the benefit of the doubt.  I found myself connecting with the main character Alma, really the only character that the story follows whole-heartedly, because she was her father’s favorite.  I have an ornament that says so, so it must be true.  She also had the curse of being so smart and so dull-looking which caused her story to be a long and arduous one of no travels until she was well into retirement and therefore spending most of her life in a closet masturbating, or a carriage house studying choice examples of botany.   Yes, you’re delicate senses read that right.  Here is a woman who spends her life yearning to earn her own “Krull the Warrior King,” hoping to use her own mating weapon to save the world of some endearing, sexy, botanist, only to be left with her own intellectual stimulus as a vibrator. (Sorry for being explicit.  My mom is going to die).  Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against plants, but I struggle to comprehend why it was necessary for me to read 513 pages of plant descriptions in order to get to the final page of this book.

AN AWESOME DRAWING BY KELLYCREATES ON TUMBLR: pink Alstroemeria

I can’t even remember what happened in the beginning.  I’ve been reading this solidly for almost two weeks because every time I would begin reading it, I would wake up in the darkness of my living room having had a fine nap filled with dreams of actual book-worthy excitement.   I know I should be applauding this story of a woman searching for enlightenment when the only thing women were allowed to be searching for was sheets, and their seventh child, but I can’t get over how much I lacked interest in this story.  It was fine historical fiction, but I was led on by interviews with Gilbert.  She said she researched endlessly the life and travels of Captain Cook, but he was in and gone in three pages flat.  I love Gilbert’s TED talks on inspiration and creativity.  I loved Eat, Pray, Love although the movie (much like this recent novel) was a journey I shouldn’t have ever taken.  However, this fictional reinvention of an intellectually driven woman wasn’t quite like reading a thesis from the biology department, but if you removed a few of the lyrical language moments, it could have been.

Sick drawing by Nicoma Nix Turner (Click the picture for a link to the site)

I was fond of a few characters, Prudence, for example and surely Retta, who is truly the only lively thing on the page.  Speaking of Retta, the only truly enjoyable character, is glared down by whiteness to live out her life as a woman “criminally insane” and put away by her husband.  I know this happened in reality.  I also know that Retta had a bit of flair, but did Gilbert have to lock away my favorite character in the whole book just because she had some personality that was later stomped on by white walls and straight jackets.  These are things to think about when you write characters.

Orchid Drawing by The Lotus Tile @ Tumblr

JK Rowling just broke every Potter’s heart when she said that Ron and Hermoine should have never been an item and Hermoine was always meant for Harry, but you can’t take something like that back when you’re writing a book.  It’s like killing off the only redeemable character.  Why rid this novel of its only funky character just to make her husband single again for when Alma discovers the truth about her sister Prudence.  That’s not fair to poor Retta who just wanted to live inside a dress with poofy sleeves and hug everyone. Henry, Alma’s father,  was sly and booming, a true father of a house and his wife was disastrously cunning and dry, but I didn’t want to hang out with any of these people.

Tahiti Image from Blog about Cooke

I think it’s fair to say that this book had moments of brilliance, but it can be summed up in a brief sentence: a woman filled with sexual frustration, sets out to discover herself in identifying and studying mosses, but is taken down by a man of divine promises (See: “A Good Man is Hard to Find”) and finds refuge once again in the idea that everything must have a comprehensive answer that she will discover mostly in the world of botany.  The true problem with this novel lies in my unflinching lack of care for these characters, this time period as told by these characters, and my disappointment of the editor who did not encourage Gilbert to shorten parts that weren’t necessary. However, thank you so much Penguin for letting me get my hands on this one so that I could use the word “vibrator” in a blog.

Sentence Adult Education

My Education by Susan Choi – Out from Viking on July 3rd

This is an adult book.

It isn’t an adult book due to the content which is obviously sexual in nature with the title being a play on the stereotype of sex as education. It is an adult book because the sentences were like tiny pencil shavings worked over into a constantly dug-up time capsule. At first I was like, “har har, my education, how many people have tried to this while using the sexual deviance of a young twenties female.” However, reading this book was like an education in writing prose. It’s clear that Susan Choi is a professional at writing a sentence. That woman could wear a suit and tie as a “period specialist.” I would love to get my education from Susan Choi on writing. This isn’t to say that I wanted to write down every sentence. They weren’t beautiful, or delectable, they were just so well-written that she could win a sentence quiz bowl for women in bed. The sentences were so good, they were disgusting.

The story on the other hand, maybe not my favorite. I think it’s an interesting story that’s definitely been done with a twist by Francine Prose in Blue Angel. The novel depicts the story of a professor-student relationship, but not quite what the reader is expecting. The book opens with a description of Nicholas, a professor of humanities where Regina is a graduate student. He is the conventional Shakespeare professor; argyle socks, corduroy slacks, geek frames, humble buttoned tweed coat. Obviously, the reader assumes he will be the love interest, but we are sorely disappointed after the vast description of his loveliness.

My Education (Band) Great Album Art @ Tumblr

This is a story of love & lust in a partnership. The couple is two beautiful women, entwined in more than just bed covers. I think this part of the story went on a little too long. I was drowning in love sequences between the two of them. The minor characters are much more powerful and I almost miss that Laurence didn’t travel through to the end of the book. I really expected him to pop up like Dutra in the new life of the characters who had moved around, carried their pasts like collectibles from previous generations. Dutra, as a minor character, and major towards the end, is an idealist. He’s one of the few idealists left and although he makes poor decisions throughout the monotony of the book, he’s probably my favorite character in the story. Then, the other honorable male is Laurence who is in the E.E. Cummings of marriages with his wife, so in love, he blushes at the thought of scandal. I loved both of these strong male sidekicks. I was even really in like with Nicholas who gets buried throughout the text and is eventually overcome by his son, Joachim.

Underground New York Public Library, Girl Reading American Woman by Susan Choi @ She Said Unprintable Things – Flickr

Mainly what you need to know is that this is a love story. It’s the same as every other love story, complicated. Love being all of these things: (Thank you, Thesaurus.com) Byzantine, Daedalean, Gordian, abstruse, arduous, can of worms,

convoluted, difficult,elaborate, entangled, fancy, gasser, hard,

hi-tech, interlaced, intricate, involved, knotty,labyrinthine, mega factor,

mixed, perplexing, problematic, puzzling, recondite,sophisticated, troublesome,

various, wheels within wheels, etc.

True to this novel, true to life.

The true depth of this novel comes in learning how to write by reading. I always love listening to writers in coffee shops who go on and on about the importance of reading, or not. Some writers believe they don’t have to read in order to be great at their craft, but that’s like being an actress and never practicing in the mirror. Susan Choi’s novel is a book you read in order to learn your own craft. If you need to understand grammar, comma placement, the way to twist a sentence in the middle like the stem of an apple, you read this book, all 304 pages. I believe in this book for its pure craft, its content may not be the most exciting content of a book, but it will keep you drumming. Thank you, Susan Choi for raising that bar. Now, my Great American Novel will have to be even stockier.

There is a child involved named Lion which is literally the name I discuss with the darling all the time for a child. It got so bad last night, the repetition of the baby’s name, that I was looking up other names that mean Lion to see if the boy could hook into any of them. Yea, that’s right, I’m planning baby names, you can judge me now. You know when you read my blog, you always get a strange personal side note.

BOOK OUT JULY 3rd

My Education by Susan Choi will be out from Viking (Penguin) on July 3rd. It’s got a brilliant late-night cover of a woman reading by flashlight or e-reader with a shapeless body on the other side of the bed. Pick it up to feel like you’ll never write a brilliant sentence again. Keep crumpling up that notebook paper and playing novel trashketball.

“His tobacco smells like wood and bitter roses.”

“He did not fear the hunter because he did not know how or why he should.  He knew only that the smell that clung to this man was different–a cluttered smell, the smell of earth and heavy rot, of possessions over which death had been repeatedly smeared–and he found that it did not invite him.”

I’ve been in a slump.

The Tiger’s Wife by Tea Obreht

I only finished three books in February because I would start a book and read the first fifty and then put it down somewhere; let it slide under the bed with the push of the vacuum cleaner, leave it on the fireplace step, lose it somewhere under my pillow, let it sit in the folds of my school backpack and let it die in my car between the seat belts, shoes, and receipts.  I’ve probably read three books in the amount of unfinished books I’ve read.  Nothing was hooking me to reading.  My heart wasn’t in it, gasp.  Even fearless readers lose meaning.  I was reading fine writing, but that was all it was.  Fine writing.  Where’s the beauty?  Where’s the way a writer twists words into new meaning?  Turns out it’s in The Tiger’s Wife by Tea Obreht.

I bought this book ONLY, only because it was on the buy two, get one free shelf at Barnes and Noble.  I found two books that I really wanted to read and this was one I had heard about from the Orange Prize.  My aunt was there, I had nine books in my hands, stuffed under my chin like a bib and she took a few off my hands and made me narrow down.  It’s like the way some girls shop for clothes.  “You already have something like this, this has too many patterns, this is too short to wear to work.”  With books it sounds a little more like this, “did you like the page you read sitting there hunched on the floor with your legs spread into a right triangle?  Did you notice the people staring at you from behind the shelves, or were you instilled with words?  Is the cover brilliant, did they take their time with it, did they give it paint?”

It was my third choice.  It was just a bronze.  It was a book that would sit on my shelf for months until I gave it a try.  And then it was everything.  I was rude to my coworkers at a meeting because I just wanted to read my book.  Why are you talking to me. Why are you interrupting the myth.  The deathless man had my full attention.  He was beautiful in his own way, his coffee cup, gold-rimmed and shining.  His coat pocket filled with grinds.  His shuffled hair, his name filled with alliteration and hope.  The deathless man became my literary hero until I met the tiger’s wife.

Dream Deferred – Langston Hughes
The Stockton Postcolonial Studies Project

I think it says so much about an author when they can make a mute character have a voice on the page.  I wanted to be the deaf mute tiger’s wife.  I wanted to marry her dirty husband, Luka, listen to his gusla in the night air, sweet at first on the city balconies and bridges and then full of angry notes, dreams deferred.  It does dry up like a raison in the sun.  The snow of this story glistened like you could see yourself in it, made you sweat in the compacted ice.  Trees were naked and full of secrets.  The tiger’s wife may be bruised, one eye peeked open, still purple from her husband’s beatings, but she was beautiful.  She was a child bride, a girl hidden in the attic like Jane Eyre, but the wife of something fierce, the wife of wilderness and fear.  She made a whole town hate her.  The power within her silence makes you want to take a vow.  Obreht has made a woman from nothing.  A woman whose father traded her off underneath a veil into one of the greatest characters in modern literature.  I didn’t even need to hear her because I could feel her in the white space of the page.  I could smell the tiger’s seeped fur, the wood burning of his stripes and the animal sweat of his back.  It was delicious and terrifying the way Obreht wrote.

Another Cover for The Tiger's Wife by Tea Obreht

Another Cover for The Tiger’s Wife by Tea Obreht

I’m shocked that people found this wasn’t one of the best reads of their year.  Obreht manages to tell stories within a story within a story and you care about each small one.  There’s a story in every sentence and you’re living it.  I can truly believe in the deathless man, I will watch for men who carry tea in their pockets, untie small bags of herbs and dip the pouch into their cups, leaving stains on the sides of saucers for waiters everywhere.  I will think about this book when I see a man lift a coffee mug to his lips.  I will wonder if later someone will break the cup in fear.  If you can’t be a character, live with one.

I love that even when you thought a story was almost over, another part of it came into place.  When I thought the tiger’s wife had become the forest, we learn about the apothecary.  How his disfigured face made him human to a mob of people so shut-in that they only opened to decay.  This amazing juxtaposition between beauty and decay is everything in writing.  The binaries of fiction, the great opposites of our world.  How can you share one without having the other.  How can beauty be a darling red petal, dotted with water from a spring rain without the small world of moss waxed to the bark of a tree.

The Tiger's Wife by Tea Obreht

The Tiger’s Wife by Tea Obreht, Art by Alison Stephen

I cried aloud when I found out who Galvin was, who his wife was, what woman ran barefoot to him across a stone bridge in the night.  How she ran too far and not far enough.  How you could not want to hold this book against you face and drag it down your cheeks makes no sense to me.  And then the grandfather.  I was just telling my students about my grandfather.  How every time I know I’m doing something wrong and yet I still go through with it, I think of him.  I think of him humming.  I don’t even know if my grandfather hummed, but I imagine him humming with his hands in his pockets.  I can see it in his eyes that he’s unhappy with me.  I never met my grandfather, but he haunts me in the best way.  I know he’s there, I know he carries me with him.  I understand the need for a granddaughter to find the stories of her past.  How can we know who we are if we haven’t lived the lives of everyone who came before us?  All these different parts of ourselves that make a whole are just as important to our story as it was to their story.  I hope my children want to know me, want to know where I’ve traveled in order to know themselves.  I connected so much to the story of this girl who searched for her grandfather through riverbeds and burned restaurants.  I wanted to know his story as much as I wanted to know hers.  And instead of just one story, I got one hundred.  I got everything I want in a book, beautiful writing, death, myths, secrets, spirits.

What more can you want from a book than to speak your truth to you?  What can you want more than it to tell you who you are in the butterfly space between each of your ribs?  Nothing.

“The ibis in the cage by the counter stood with one leg tucked under the blood-washed skirt of the feathers.”

If you find death and he speaks to you, be polite, hold out your chapped hands and your smell of Carolina pine, or your mother’s pearls, or the sweet pear of emptiness you carry with you, and go.

“Lending Fragile Color to Wildflowers”

“A half-finished book is after all a half-finished love affair.”

A half-finished review is confusing and likely:

You feel like you enter the Secret Garden and are walking the maze of walled shrubbery.  There’s a parasol, a sailor, a composer, a writer of a journal as good as Sylvia’s Plath, but more hot-buttoned-English-vest.  A robot will greet you at the end and a boy with an accent part Caribbean, part Afrikan, part Southerner.  It’s the land of misfit toys meets Alice in Wonderland, but then you’re forced to put together these puzzle pieces of worlds you’ve lived.  It’s like looking at a broken mirror of your own humanity and staring at the pot-marked and freckled face that you see staring back.  This world of green and blue’s that reflects catastrophe, and the many lives we live in the one we’re given.

Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell

It’s Cloud Atlas, not the sextet, but the story.

Cloud Atlas isn’t a book, it’s a work of art.  It’s how I imagine JK Rowling wrote Harry Potter.  David Mitchell must have spent years in a room with a very dark chalkboard.  He must have squared off a million different timelines and sketched the inhabitants between them.  Where are we? What’s the climate?  What voice does this character have, what size and shape are they and what does that mean for the echo of their voice in the walls of their bodies?  This just reminds me that all writers are insane.  We hear voices in our heads telling us where we’re going, how many apostrophes and bicycle accessories we need.

Steal Like an Artist

It’s rare to find a book that creates a whole new way of writing.  Science does new experiences everyday, math comes up with new formulas, but writing, writers are masters of plagiarism.  We tell the same stories, we use the same characters, the same character traits, the same desires, the same happy endings or catastrophic surprises.  I like to think I’m pretty well-read (maybe not in every genre though).  I have Specimen Days by Michael Cunningham sitting next to the toilet in my guest bathroom.  I hear it’s a similar read to Cloud Atlas.  Cloud Atlas came first and of course Cunningham’s whole Pulitzer winning novel came from Woolf.  Plagiarism, dear ones, remixing.

Cloud Atlas has six stories and they stack up like a mountain.  I believe the middle one is supposed to be the climax because I didn’t really desperately care about anyone but Louisa Rey by the second part of the book.  Although, Cavendish did become a friend that grew on me over time.  He wasn’t so great on first impression.  (He had some Chandler Bing tendencies).   Oh characters, oh how they loosen inside us.

BreakfastGreen aka Miriam (Spain) – Conviction, 2012

Mitchell is constantly reminding us of his Russian doll motif.  The novel is supposed to come apart and stack back up again.   As a reader, I felt like I could never suspend into the fiction and forget that I was part of a game.  My petticoat was always dirty with the garden maze soil.  It’s a complicated read.  I tried to explain it to my boyfriend and started by saying, “well in this section an English gentlemen is on a boat and writing his diaries about the characters on his voyage and then in the next story Frobisher is an apprentice composer and he is trying to sell the diaries of the man in the first story that he finds in the Belgium library of his Composer boss who has saved him from debt…” I had to stop there because my boyfriend saw what was about to happen and I had no idea where to place the commas, or my pauses for breath.

Russian Doll

I get very excited when I discuss books.  I was really excited to explain the science formula that unfolded as I read.  It was like eating a meaty taco and having the juices and jalapeno sauce spill over the napkin in your lap.  You’re fresh out of luck if you don’t politely place that all-white napkin across your knees. The bits ooze out, the flanked lettuce slips from the corners of your mouth, the string cheese is like drool.  (Never thought I’d compare a book to eating a taco, but you get crafty). You’re missing pieces of the plot, waiting for the big surprise.  In this book, I kept wondering if it would be bigger than just a birth mark.

Did I tell you when I was a kid that I was desperately embarrassed by a birthmark on my back?  I wouldn’t wear tank tops to school.  My mother always called it a “beauty mark.”  How very Marilyn of me.  I was more insecure about that mark and the gap in my teeth than I’ve ever been since then.   When I read characters with birth marks, I always remember that 11-year-old-girl who didn’t want to turn her face towards her shoulder and smile into the camera in case the small brown mound on the geography of her body would be discovered.

The comet birth mark (continuing motif) was both everything to that small reading girl and nothing to the reading of this story because it wasn’t enough of a connection to make me care about each and every character.  Why didn’t he work harder to make their souls vibrate through the page.  However, you can always thank a book that reminds you what you were like at your most human.  I was at my most human when I was eleven and insecurities hid in my pores.

I feel like I’ve stopped making sense.

This is my brain on Cloud Atlas.

Frobisher

If I have thoroughly confused you and made myself look like a moron, then just read the following passage, it’s about every single one of you.

“Because her scent is almonds, meadow grass.  Because if I smile at her ambition to be an Egyptologist, she kicks my shin under the table.  Because she makes me think about something other than myself.  Because even when serious she shines.  Because she prefers travelogues to Sir Walter Scott, prefers Billy Mayerl to Mozart, and couldn’t tell C major from a sergeant major.  Because I, only I, see her smile a fraction before it reaches her face…”

And here I’ve been teaching my students not to start a sentence with because, or and.

Cheers to my first review of the year being as confusing as unknotting a slim gold chain.

This is your brain on my review of Cloud Atlas.

Project 365 | Week 49

Day 347 | Cat Nap

Shoved in the cushion.

Shoved in the cushion.

Don’t ask me how I got a cat this handsome or this photogenic, but he’s even a looker while he sleeps.

Day 348 | Tree Trimming

First Real Christmas Tree

First Real Christmas Tree

Brittni couldn’t believe that I didn’t know that you have to water these.  She whipped out her little watering can like a ninety-year old gardener and showed me the way.

Day 349 | Away in a Manger

Nephew

Nephew

My mom took my nephew to look at Christmas lights and he suddenly became a shepherd boy. Fits right in with his converses and shaggy Justin Bieber hair.  (Does anyone know how to correctly spell Bieber)?

Day 350 | Midsummer

Midsummer

Midsummer

My new life quote.

Day 351 | SELFIE

Photobooth

Photobooth

Good hair days are few and far between.  They need evidence.

Day 352 | “Glitter is the herpes of crafting”  – BD

Bookish Bulbs

Bookish Bulbs

Sunday afternoon crafting session with my cat lady double.

Day 353 | Progress Reports

Period Grades

Period Grades

Progress reports is almost never a good day.  It was even raining.  Jane Eyre should have come in and taught them a thing about the weather dictating feelings.

Project 365 | Week 40

281:

New Skirt, New Journal

Hippie teacher, hippie leather journal.

282:

One Sock McGee in the Corn House

Pure excitement in the corn house, can’t get more country than that.

283:

Hay Barn

Hay is for horses, hey is for backpack buddies.

284:

Boys will be Boys

Just some ninjas that I know.

285:

THREE SNOW CONES in and we still can’t smile for the camera.

286:

Happy Halloween

Someone at the farm can spray paint.

287:

Everybody

Vampire face, smiley face, fish face.  Which do you prefer?

288:

Cover of Halloween Times

After a long day at the pumpkin patch, it’s time for you and this awkward pumpkin to take a nap.

Pumpkin Heads

The pumpkins were imported from Virginia.  They had tags.

Project 365 | Week 38

Day 265:

High School Pre-Bell

The phrase “calm before the storm” never seemed so true.

Day 266:

Cross Bridge

The bridge that crosses 440 on the greenway.  We were spotting race cars and sweating.

Day 267:

The boy and the yellow flower.

He paints the roses red.

Day 268:

Fungus Amongus

It was a Tarheel fan, thus the mold.

Day 269:

Lady

A lady was lying in the park posing for the audience.

Day 270:

One cat is scaling curtains…

one is waking up from a nap listening to the mountain climber.

Day 271:

Potato Bug

What does your family call a roly poly (or potato bug)?