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SkinnyDippingIntoBooks

Skinny Dipping Into Books

I like the rain. I want to have a spring bookworming rain party full out with wellies—but not those Hunter Boots; absolutely not—, with yummy airy things like puffed pastries, meringues, mini fluffy cheese cakes, mousse dessert, macaroon, biscuits, crepe, and Earl Grey tea, definitely Earl Grey tea.  and Tillandsia. We'd have lots of "air plants". Lots! And We'd read, but not anything structured. We'd bring books, trade books, read out-loud, pass books around between sentences and paragraphs. We'd leave with books we hadn't discovered.

 

I like books like I like my Jazz; euphoric, dangerous, occasionally a bit manic, sorrowful, bleak, raging, mood-incongruent, mournful, unforgivingly ragged, symbolic in a quiet way, warm apple pie for the soul. Give me a Plath style. Yōko Ogawa, M. Roach,


Criteria: Not rated on likability of characters. Not objective. I like Moxie Soda; chances are you don't.


time spent in that before bed reading slot:

5-until blurry eye 4-Later than I intended, but I still kept to my extended, extended reading time 3-I really should have been to bed an hour ago  2-customary 30 minutes. 1-book. side table. eyes closed.


How are common themes handled?

5-With an aesthetic that repurposes everyday themes into something fresh. Think of Hole Celebrity Skin covered by Cat Power  4-there is a comfortable air of familiarly.
3-Deja Vu 2. No deviation from its mates  1. Devastatingly trite, redundant, and stale.

Where would you keep it post-reading?

5-Next to my bed.  4-it's the center piece of my favorite bookshelf 3. On my other favorite bookshelf, but it's a bit dusty over their 2-Great cheap bookends 1-It never made it out of the box marked 'moving'.


Emotional response-

5- Where is my teddy bear? Emotional-hangover 4- If I wasn't so emotionally stunted I'd cry.
3. Did James Cameron co-wrote this? Artfully contrived. 
2- calculative emotional manipulation. This was literally written by James Cameron.1- I…feel…..nothing.

Mechanics (plot structure, voice, presentation, word choice, sentence structure, characters, writing style, pacing, and consistency):

5-Chanel 4-Prada 3-J-Crew 2-Gap 1-Old Navy

Currently reading

The Complete Stories
Flannery O'Connor
I am No One You Know
Joyce Carol Oates
Unclean Jobs for Women and Girls
Alissa Nutting, Alissa Nutting

stunningly perfect

The Hours: A Novel - Michael Cunningham

 

 

I shouldn't even attempt this. I promised myself last night, coffee buzzed at 4 AM that i wouldn't... but i can't help myself. Rather than tell you the plot of the Hours, which would inevitably give away its twists, turns, and the constellation of the many lines, crosshatches, the sinewy that perforates and holds up its text in the most simplistic and complicated ways—oh that would be truly wronging this text—I'll explain my real, honest visceral response to it.

Simplistic plot explanation here. 

see the two middle paragraphs 

I'll use an example of my day (fictional, although I'm this choosy when it comes to clothes, and i adore red heads) to illustrate the basic, rudimentary concepts of this novel, without giving away too much (and clearly a classic plot review will be too difficult, and would cheapen it). and it will be so much fun to be this egocentric this early in the afternoon. 



I'll wake up in jeans, and a grey button up, a tie thrown to the floor, crumpled. Walking to the shower I strip, it's questionable why my underwear is missing—wondering did i wear any last night?—. Shower; more collapses on the tile bottom of the shower, and take an immeasurably long time to select today's outfit, going through four or five various configurations of ties, button up, jeans, tailored dress pants, polo shirts, settling on a white collared shirt, solid purple tie, brown oxford and dark jeans; this works, surprisingly well in its simplicity. I have forgotten underwear again; maybe this is a new trend, the onset of alzheimer's; a really torturous hangover, i decide, hugging my stomach. Choosing the right underwear adds another ten minutes to my time; it's now 1pm, I have taken two hours to shower, dress, shape tousled hair—this humidity will kill it, why do i even try?; why even shower? I had the perfect mess of bedhead— and choose underwear. I haven't and won't eat lunch.

I stumble to my jeans, which lie in a clump on the floor; sad, forlorn on the black tiled floor, echoes of today's shower splayed on its course service; a child's water colors—angered, and dismissive of the task, unable to sit. it's with such a beatific morning that his anger ceases to abate. go outside. go outside. his mind rings—finding my wallet, my mission complete and thankful i didn't leave it at the bar, opened up I stare, not quite supervised that my debit card is missing. Along with the missing credit card, a piece of paper, scrawled on it a number of little reflection, no means of assessing, a blank screen of nothingness, the name Aiden on the top, and a flash of muted red briefly enters in my mind, escaping easily; a fish off its hook, improperly set by an inexperienced fisherman. 

Calling the number I hear the distinct twang—no that wont do, that will not—, a reflection of an Irish accent on the other line. He recalls the night with extreme, almost discomforting accuracy. I didn't do that. i didn't go that far. I can smell whiskey emanating from my skin. We make plans, and my stomach churns, not out of this terrible hangover, but out of nerves, passing jolts of unconscious reverberation of anxiety, like a adolescent waiting at the marker, waiting to take his turn at the mile run; everyone watches, he will fall, he will stumble, he will come in the latest. I must now return to the closet, now that there is an objective at hand, now that there is this event, this unknowing event, out of my control; underwear has become inexplicably important. 

Now imagine that this story is being written by someone of equally, almost exact proportions (Harland), but not an apprehension of the inevitability of a possible date thing; it's totally reformulated into an actual mental illness. The story falls short of completion, but thankfully, thank god Jason's day has been documented fully by this author 80 years ago—my life a freaking classic—. He struggles with endless bouts of concern and disquietness that his life will be interrupted, not by mental illness per-se, but by his own captured idea of it at its worst. Harland hasty attempts to avoid this scenario; no symptoms, yet. While writing the book, Harland struggles with killing Jason, but decides that his love for life and underwear is all too significant. Aiden will die then, squished under the tracks of the T... er train; he wasn't that attractive anyway—he always worried about silly super-self centered things—, in that distant way redheads are both interesting but repellent at the same time. it's the early 1900s. scandal abounds in this novel of his... it's almost too much, but at the same time too little. Someone will die, but that is concealed until much later.

Skip to 1960, were a man, a heterosexual—well barely a heterosexual—who will succumb to his tortured, filled with regret—or is he;life manifesting in hostility, anger, depression, and despondency, held at arms length by moments of hope, however fleeting and forced. He is doing some event—doesn't matter this is no longer about me—; he is preparing for a party, for his brother return from the Army. Along the way he will step, just barely over into the cavern of uncertainty; reading the book about Jason's life, questioning the authors past, he begins to question not meeting the expectations of his mundane, pathetic, but somehow perfect life. His vision of it—the party, yes?—extravagant but simplistic beyond feasibility—, the party must happen, or at the very least he MUST make a spinach dip. He is both consumed by his expectations of the party, as well as his duty to welcome his brother—of whom he questions if he likes—back to safety.

Skip to modern day. Jasper, aged to 50, is having a party for a friend (Marge) consumed by mental illness, coupled with Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease. The party will be a success in Jasper's eyes, as he overlooks the inevitable and struggles to integrate his own terminal inability to understand himself, his life, his past, and his choices. He may or may not have depression; this is undecided. 



So there you have it. an extremely egocentric story, that perhaps focuses too much on the selection of underwear. 




Actual review: Lets return to the Hours, because after all, Mr, Jason, has never been written; unfortunate, I know. 




Mrs. Dalloway: There are still flowers to buy. 

Mrs. Woolf: Mrs. Dalloway said something (what?), and got the flowers herself. 

Mrs. Brown: "Mrs Dalloway said she would buy the flowers herself".



And so it begins....... 

This author is skilled... his writing DEAD ON. His hold on his craft is magically perfect; eliciting a unceasing awe. its prose, its style, its passages, its detail, its character development, spot on. The manner in which two words develop into something so much larger, so much more meaningful as they are transplanted from one story into another, is brilliantly constructed. Larger concepts (particularly from the original Mrs Dalloway) are delicately amplified from one story, where seemingly arbitrary internal thoughts or behaviors of one character are brought with significance into one or two of the remaining story. In the Story of Jason, something so childish and purposeless as an underwear choice will somehow, some inescapable way, will find itself as important and valued in another story. There are light, opaque, and shrouded concepts and connection pieces splashed throughout each of the three stories, blending them all together, while at the same time differentiating them—characters, themes, storyline, narrative, meaning making, etc—with such expertise one is caught aghast, focused on a clear familiarity with these passages.

For example: 


Still this indiscriminate love feels entirely serious to her, as if everything in the world is part of a vast, inscrutable intention, and everything in the world has its own secret name, a name that cannot be conveyed in language but is simply the sight and the feel of the thing itself. This determined, abiding fascination is what she thinks of as her soul (an embarrassing, sentimental word, but what else to call it?); the part that might conceivably survive the death of the body. Clarissa never speaks to anyone about any of that. She doesn't gush or chirp. She exclaims only over the obvious manifestations of beauty, and even then manages an aspect of adult restraint. Beauty is a whore, she sometimes says. I like money better."




There are echoes of the above passage, some more subtle but still present, and some overt; you will recall this passage with utmost clarity, which seemed so accurate, honest, and a bit defenseless against the will and disillusionment of both your own life, as well as principle characters and secondary characters (but ALL characters are significant). The main characters exploration of, refusal to accept or acceptance of aspects of the above passage, is beautifully executed. This is only one example, one of the more overt occasions when the author deftly provides connections between each of the characters, and therefore their stories. It's not so much about the overall story, but the characters, and their shared experiences, and their own way of interpreting their subjective experiences. 

The problem with really lush, realistic approaches to writing is that an author almost trips over his own lines (coughs Swamplandia). Cunningham, I'm terribly sorry but you tripped a few times. The prime examples of this trend were in his overly verbose, stream of conscious writing. I get it, you wanted to channel Woolf, and you did this quite well, except for about a dozen times where it just consumed your intentions. Thankfully this wasn't a common occurrence, and as such the Hours is one of the finest examples of the modern day manifestation of this style. However, I know that it will trip some people up, and leave a distaste in their mouths. I too was caught up in the style a few times, but more because it struck me so hard that I found myself unable to slow down, while trying to delay finishing it.

Ah, but your one blunder is the voice. You were so focused on connecting these stories, and weaving Mrs. Dalloway into your text that you forgot to differentiate characters. the funny thing is you did quite well in separating dialog—both internal and external—, but outside this you really faulted. I would have liked a different vocabulary, a diversity in words, structure, and slight style shifts. you did this, delicately and lightly, but chapters would have really sprung from their pages if you forced it a bit. But maybe this was your intention, after all it did incorporate all three stories, but IF this was your intent, a word of advice, it seemed a bit novice (oh this is much too harsh, mind you). 


Oh, and you are probably wonder, and here is your answer, it is indeed different from the movie. 



Quotes:




“There is just this for consolation: an hour here or there, when our lives seem, against all odds and expectations, to burst open and give us everything we've ever imagined , though everyone but children (and perhaps even they) knows these hours will inevitably be followed by others, far darker and more difficult. Still, we cherish the city, the morning, we hope, more than anything, for more. Heaven only knows why we love it so.” 


“These days, Clarissa believes, you measure people first by their kindness and their capacity for devotion. You get tired, sometimes, of wit and intellect; everybody's little display of genius.” 



“I remember one morning getting up at dawn. There was such a sense of possibility. You know, that feeling. And I...I remember thinking to myself: So this is the beginning of happiness, this is where it starts. And of course there will always be more...never occurred to me it wasn't the beginning. It was happiness. It was the moment, right then."




"She loves the world for being rude and indestructible, and she knows that other people must love it too, poor as well as rich, though no one speaks specifically of the reasons. Why else do we struggle to go on living, no matter how compromised, no matter how harmed? Even when we’re further gone than Richard; even if we’re fleshless, blazing with lesions, shitting in the sheets; still, we want desperately to live."


"She can feel the nearness of the old devil (what else to call it?), and she knows she will be utterly alone if and when the devil chooses to appear again. The devil is a headache; the devil is a voice inside a wall; the devil is a fin breaking through dark waves. The devil is a brief, twittering nothing that is a thrush’s life. The devil sucks all the beauty from the world, all the hope, and what remains when the devil has finished is a realm of the living dead—joyless, suffocating."


"What I wanted to do seemed simple. I wanted to create something alive and shocking enough that it could stand beside a morning in somebody’s life. The most ordinary morning. Imagine, trying to do that. What foolishness.
"