Thursday, June 25, 2009

Compulsive Reading Materials


I haven't changed my reading list on the side panel in quite awhile. Partly because I seem to be either( a) too lazy to keep it up to date or( c) too busy to do so. I am constantly striving for the middle ground, but fear (b) will always allude me.

However, the main reason I haven't updated it regularly is I am indulging in one of my periodic reading ruts. One of the banes of my existence is the series author. The authors that write two, thirty seven or sixty eight books all featuring the same cast of characters. If I come across them when only one or two books have been published, then I can usually control my addiction. By the time the next book in the series comes out I have moved on to other reading interests. But if I wait until five or six or even more books in the series are published, then I am lost. I become obsessed with reading each book in the series, reading them in the correct order and not stopping until I have read every frigging one of the damn things.

Occasionally this turns out OK. If the fifth book or the twelfth book in the series is as well written and entertaining as the first, I consider my obsession time well spent. Most of the Anne Rice Vampire Series were entertaining to read and at one time I eagerly awaited the publishing of the next book. I can't say the last book was as good as the first, but I read them all. Strangely, none of her other series ever captured my attention.

Most of the time, the series loses its creative energy after the first couple of books. But once I get started, if the next book is available, I am on a mission. I'm determined to get through them all. Regardless of how unreadable the sixth or twenty seventh book might be.

I'm sure this goes back to my early reading habits. I used to keep written lists of books in a series and cross each one off as I turned the last page. I worked my way through Bobbsey Twins, Nancy Drew, Trixie Beldon, Donna Parker, Cherry Ames, Laura Ingalls Wilder, Louisa May Alcott and the Anne of Green Gable series. I even read all of the Walt Disney- Annette series and the Lennon Sisters mysteries. (This last statement is one of the most humiliating confessions I have ever made.)

I also believe I inherited this quirk from my mom. When she died, in the back of her closet were three grocery bags full of Agatha Christi paperback mysteries. I am certain she read them all. Perhaps in one setting. Or at least on one year.

Now I am engrossed in the Anne Perry mysteries featuring Charlotte & Thomas Pitt. I should say I was engrossed when I was reading the third and fourth books in the series. The first couple were not particularly well written. They were her first published books and there was absolutely no development of the main characters. The next few improved steadily. I am now on book 12. I think there are 25 in the series. The improvement stalled around book 8. They are still readable, but not compelling. Regardless, whether I want to or not, I will probably get through them all. Fortunately, they are fast reads and several are audio-books, so my ipod can speed the process along.

A part of me realizes that reading a book because it is number 16 in a series rather than reading it for the pleasure of reading is not particularly noble. I assume authors that find commercial success with a particular set of characters or a particular narrative stick with their story not because they can't write about other subjects, but rather - why spoil a good thing? Or as my father-in-law used to say, "if it ain't broke, don't fix it."

And yet I persist. Even though I have a backlog of books I really want to read, they will wait until I have pushed my way through the Victorian world of Charlotte & Thomas Pitt. I still see little character development, but each book does touch on issues of the day - suffrage, class struggle, child labor, the impact of the industrial age on society. If it was an issue at the time the characters played their roles, Anne Perry weaves it into the story. That keeps them engaging. Plus, I have to admit Ms. Perry's own weird history also helps keeps me interested in the series.

I am actually a person of few compulsions. And this one seems fairly benign. I just hope Ms. Perry is done writing Pitt books. I can't take much more.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

The Writer's Life - But Not Mine


This post has floundered as a draft for several days. Every time I start to work on it something changes in my online universe. The topic remains relevant, but new facts must be inserted. Which means already penned sections must go, or else it will be epic in its final proportion. Perhaps the exorcised sections will show up in another post.

What prompted my musings in the first place was this post by Susannah Breslin on her blog The Reverse Cowgirl. I read her work regularly and am fascinated by her ability to take a world most people find ugly, dirty and disconcerting and point out the beauty, even if it is a heartbreakingly sad beauty, that lurks beneath.

She later advised on Twitter that the young man whose inquiry she responded to was not pleased with her response. I can understand that. However, I found it ... clarifying. And refreshing. The honesty in her words is a slap in the face to many people who believe they are the next Bronte sister or even the next Carl Bernstein and all they have to do is form a complete sentence, then readers will flock to their words. It propelled me towards proactively stating what has gradually been dawning on me for several months.

I remember clearly the day I decided to be a writer. I was in the 5th grade. Our assignment was to cut a picture out of a magazine and write a story about the picture. My selection was a picture of a girl about my age, looking out a window at gray, drizzly skies. I named her Anastasia. I have no idea why. I decided she was sad. About as complex an emotion as I was up to in 5th grade.

The real reason she was sad will be saved for a future post. Suffice it to say that the reason I used in my story was that her dog had just died.

My teacher loved it. On this assignment she did something she had never done before. Right next to the bright red 100% scratched boldly across the paper she wrote: "You should be a writer when you grow up." That sealed the deal. From that day forward, while I mentioned other ambitions, finished school, began a career in financial services, got married and had kids, I knew in my heart that I was born to write.

In a single act, 125 words written on a Big Chief tablet with a picture from a magazine pasted across the top, the driving ambition of my life crystallized.

Flash forward many, many years. I write a killer business letter. I can reduce an underling to tears reading the eloquently scathing first sentence in an email missive from me. I write contracts, I write policy language and I write magazine articles regarding my industry that everyone agrees are informative, educational and never dry. I proofed, edited and occasionally rewrote both of my kids through high school and college. I've written short stories and essays - even the beginnings of what I dreamed would be a novel. I've kept a journal and have been writing in this space since January.

But am I a writer? God no. I have a way with words, especially in formal, business documents. I am witty and articulate. I have an extensive vocabulary and love to show it off. However, I am not and could never be confused with a serious "writer" aka "author" of great works. I am a journeyman - not an artist.

And that is becoming OK with me. It was a painful revelation at first. But, I've discovered several other things in life I am really, really good at, so there is compensation.

I am occasionally envious of people who do have real talent. But mainly I just enjoy reading what their talent reaps. I am amazed that some of my favorites, who are so incredibly and obviously gifted, are either still struggling for recognition or don't realize themselves that their gift goes way beyond simple skill.

And that leads me to the next post that prompted this confession. One of my very favorite writers is Remittance Girl. Her fiction is adult in nature. But to say she is a gifted writer is an understatement. I read what she writes and am awed. Even if the particular story doesn't appeal to me, her imagination, her storytelling skills and her ability to draw the reader in, until they become the character and see the world through the eyes of the character is beyond the ability of many successful and published authors. Her reverence of the written word is always obvious. Why she is not consistently on top of the NY Times bestseller list is a mystery to me.

I read this recent post on her blog, which was her reasoned response to a totally irrelevant remark posted as a comment to one of her current stories in progress. The remark had absolutely nothing to do with what she had written and was only made to be hurtful to RG. Instead, it made the poster seem small in stature and spirit as well as just plain ignorant.

I cannot read what RG writes compare it to what I write and say with a straight face that we are both similarly gifted and talented writers. But I can be pissed when someone belittles her talent so stupidly, almost to the point I take it personally.

And finally, a third event that just occurred and insisted I make room for it in this post. If no one else sees the connection between what Susannah Breslin said, the post on Remittance Girl's blog, the post I mention below and my willingness to finally admit I am not a writer - sorry. It makes sense to me.

There is a gentleman named Deity. He has a blog I've read regularly for a couple of years. He recently admitted to being burned out and stopped posting a couple of months ago. His decision was a loss felt by many. Just this afternoon he offered this small gift. A short piece infused with the joy of the everyday, the comfort of routine and a love of one's place in life. It moved me to tears.

He is a writer. I am not.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Crashing


Flipping through channels, I happened on Dave Matthews Band video for "Crash Into Me". The song has been a favorite since the first time I heard it. An alluring siren call. There are songs you hear that make you feel happy, make you feel sorrowful, fill you with joy. This song elicits nothing but a burning need to shag.

The video is perhaps a little too surreal. It is beautiful, a visual masterpiece, but the meaning of some of the imagery goes right over my head.

That hardly matters though. Everything about the song, the arrangement, the lyrics, the mix, everything appeals to me. Every aspect of the song begs you to sink, to join, to crash. I love it.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

The Allure of Men


I am a woman of uncomplicated tastes. Especially when it comes to what is sexually attractive about a man. To me, it is nothing so crass as rippling biceps, a broad chest or an over-sized bulge at crotch level. Those are enticing furbelows I grant you, but I am always more attracted to the subtle touches of masculinity.

That said, it isn't a subject I devote a great deal of thought to. I know what I like. And I don't have to give words to it when I see it. My appreciation is ... instinctive.

But the topic came up at lunch today. I could tell that the other women in the conversation had thought about it. Had attached words to what solicits an instinctive reaction in them. Which made me question myself. Could I express it, if required? So, as I went through an extremely stressful afternoon, I kept calming myself by bringing my mind back to the subject of what makes a man sexy to me. Here is, I think, my top ten.

10. A man who looks as equally at home in a faded, worn T-Shirt with the name of a beer or a band that hasn't existed in 20 years as he does in a the finest cotton dress shirt with French cuffs and understated cuff links.

9. A man with a sense of comfort in themselves and in their bodies. A comfort that is inviting. That makes you want to sink down into them, like you would sink into a hammock on a summer afternoon or a rug before a fire on a winter night.

8. A quick wit. The best foreplay is conversation. The very best foreplay is conversation filled with risque innuendo, playful threats and double entendres. Followed closely by graphic and descriptive comments at appropriate junctures, once the time for foreplay has passed. I'm sure that mental agility bears a direct correlation to physical agility.

7. A man whose sense of what makes a woman sexy matches the definition of me.

6. The texture of the skin right behind a man's ears. There are so few places on a man's clothed body that feels satiny smooth and warm. A tiny spot you can appreciate because it isn't rock-solid or hairy or rough. It serves as a harbinger for the spots you can't easily access with his clothes on that hopefully shares that texture.

5. A man who knows when to shut up. I know this is typically a complaint men make of women. But I find men who prattle even more annoying than I find chatty women.

4. A man proficient with the use of all of his given senses. A man who relies only on his visual sense when he evaluates a woman misses so much. A man who breaths your scent and finds it intoxicating, who can't seem to touch you enough to ever satisfy his need, who thinks you taste better than his very favorite beer, the devil's food cake his mother bakes for his birthday or peanut butter and a man who listens, appreciates your sound and is always attuned to it when you are together, is delicious.

3. A boyish smile. If an 85 year old man smiles at me with a crooked, boyish grin, I melt. I'm a sucker for a lopsided, mischievous, 'awe shucks' smile every time.

2. A man who is curious. A man who is willing to try almost anything. A man who has very few items on his mental checklist of sexual activities that he is unwilling to contemplate. A man who possesses an amazing imagination and isn't afraid to use it. A man with a highly developed sense of adventure.

1. Eyes. Eyes that are deep-set, almost sleepy looking, yet always look engaged and interested. Eyes that are as fascinating to stare into when they are half closed and unfocused as they are when they are wide open and intent on you. Eyes that are clear and clearly reveal every emotion as it passes through his mind. Eyes that tell the story of the man.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Relevancy, or Thoughts Upon the Psyche of Gnats


I'm not posting and I'm not sure why. I think part of the reason is I started this blog to become more disciplined in my writing, and as I have freely admitted numerous times, I am not a disciplined person. The more I try and impose self-discipline, the more likely I am to rebel. It is inevitable.

Other fascinations are now engaging my attention. As I have also admitted, I have the attention span of a gnat. My life is a series of discovering a new fascination, spending an intense but relatively brief period of time learning all I can about the subject, slaking my thirst, then losing interest and and moving on to the next topic of which I find myself enamored. Throughout my life, this pattern has repeated itself more times than I can count.

I also find myself focusing even more inwardly than usual. Always introspective, always introverted, I go through periods in my life when these aspects of my personality increase their already sizable control of my psyche. Right now I feel the need to cocoon myself, both physically and mentally.

I learned a long time ago to go with the flow of my thoughts, my interests, my current mindset. I've also learned that if I don't particularly like the Lulu I am at the moment, if I wait a few minutes that Lulu will be replaced by another, hopefully more likable version of myself.

I will continue to post, when I feel I can say what I need to say. I would like to think that what I say may be of interest to others as well. But that is secondary to me. I have a difficult enough time being relevant to me, to worry about being relevant to others.