24 Following

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

I'd rather have a bear eat my foot

The Bear - Claire  Cameron


This novel, little in size spans themes that have the capacity to be happy and tragic, and often both, coalescing in eerily familiarity. These themes are familiar to all of us. We embrace, struggle against, and often smile at our youth—how silly we were pretending to be cowboys and Indians, animals we glimpsed at a zoo, our fathers, our mothers. how we idolized our older cousins (who we realized as adults were just lazy) and how we all found comfort in routine; but in reality, if we really think back at that magical and amazing time we smile, and it's probably a big freaking smile. And we can all reflect back on how youth really, ultimately protected us. How comforting—now that you can look back—the feeling was of being smothered by our ultra-clingy parents who wouldn't let us step too close to the edge of the ice during winter or pushed us close to their hips when a stranger approached. How we marveled in that one time that our fathers surrender, 'All right, just ONE sip" and how he laughed as we spit coffee across the table.

There is family; that unique balance of both happiness and frustration, and anyone with siblings can recall how this is amplified by brothers and sisters. She told you that there wasn't any Santa, and you cried. She kissed you on the forehead when you kicked that STUPID chair that you always seem to hit with your big toe.  He, your mean brother, taught you how to ride your bike and how to make a fist. Your mother and father, or any constellation of such, held up the walls for all these experiences, pushing your older siblings towards a role of nurturing, and putting a hand over that fist giving you the wisdom to think before acting.

This book is the culmination of all things tragic, sad, beautiful, happy, and frustrating about family. This book is the essence of childhood, with all its hesitations, bravery, and triumphs, as well as its failures and challenges.

<B> whittle it down and this book is life </B>

The premise is easy and simplistic. Two children, one five and soon to be 6 and one 2 witness the mulling of their parent by a bear. They hide out, taking on the challenges of nature to survive; quite Bear Grylls of them. They are explorers taking on nature, just like you were when you went into your backyard, or if you were lucky your neighborhood pond and surrounding forest. Only difference is, you could, when your bones grew tired and your stomached roared, go inside, into that nice cocoon of safety.  

The premise, as well as the expected outcome is all well and good, however, aside from a few noteworthy instances—which were quite nice—, it failed to solidify those aspects noted above, at least in the details. Globally the book succeeded in exploring all these concepts. The first 8th and the last 8th, especially the last few pages, really exemplified the objectives I thought the author was going for; there is your one star.

I have two major qualms—a lack of proper orientation to child development and a writing style that highlighted and amplified the former—with this book. My primary concern is with the main character, Anna. This book was highly, if not exclusively character driven, so when the main character failed to fit the established chronological age it had severe  consequences. There was a huge gap between internal dialog and physical behavior. I found it troubling that a child that is almost six years old would have tremendous limitations with word association, as well as huge gaps in sequencing and processing. Likewise, sentence structure, particularly in the length of her sentences does not meet typical developmental milestones. Maybe it is due to the fact that I worked with a private school population, but these issues seem a far cry from what I observed in Pre-K/K behavior, and what i expect.

I found Anna to be unreliable on an emotional front, as well. Given her internal processing and sequencing, i doubt very much that she would have the mental and physical tools to undertake those events which occurred after her parents where attacked. It isn't that she wouldn't be able to muster the strength to do some of those things—though, yah, doubting that —, I just found it remarkably unlikely that she would see her parents mulled to death, one still alive, and still have normal functioning. Of course children of this age are innately self-centered, however it typically doesn't manifest in this manner. Empathy, however limited at this age, would have kicked in. I would expect Anna to have experienced a stress response as well as concern for her mother, if only because her mother, her safe person, was lying on the ground COVERED IN blood. Clearly I would not have these expectations for her brother, Stick, but he is 2, so yah. Also important is that i would expect NO child of this age to respond in the manner Anna did, even those children functioning at the highest level of expected development.

Likewise, I would expect, regardless of her initial response, for her to fall into a puddle of conflicted emotional states, and an all together devastated lack of resiliency after a short length of time had elapsed. Children—again my experience teaching this particular age—are not solely independent. Yes they are taking charge. Their independence is budding and you can see it seeping into their everyday work, however, they still need that guiding hand with many aspects of life, particularly those aspects that depend on a higher degree of emotional development. Don't get me started on the limitations to her physical body that would have lead, quickly, to a state of terminal shutdown; yes I am quite aware that she demonstrated this at a specific time, but not early enough that it was believable. I mean seriously! have you see how much a six year old eats, there is NO way she could have survived on just berries!

Now, i know I will be getting feedback on resilient children who fared tremendously well during kidnappings and while lost in the woods, however, these instances came with a high degree of distress that was noted throughout the experience; I have read the case files on many of these events, and the news has recorded them to a high degree, noting that distress and anxiety were paramount to these experiences, as well as fairly profound in its manifestations.

Curiously the therapist was a deceptively wise move on the part of the author. The interplay between an adult that was so dramatically out of her depth and a child that was in crisis was brilliantly conceived, and sparked my interest. I was surprised that the character of Anna was reeled in, and aligned better with normative development. However, this only really strengthened the idea that the vast setting, confined to the observations of two young children, was a difficult task to accomplish in written form.

Lastly, and I'll make this short, the story was too sprawling. There have been comparisons to Room, and I get them. However, other than the notion that both novels had child narrators these books really didn't have anything else in common—other than survival, yah, duh.

Room worked because it was contained. The environment that the narrator lived was contained to a small room. This worked well, because limitation to speech, cognition, sequencing, processing, and physical ability, expected for that age, were kept in check. In Bear, however, the large scope deadened the rational anchor to child development, and succeeded in entering the world of illogical. In the woods, a vast area for the author to cover and explore, the character of Anna fell apart like the sandcastles Stick loved to reduce to rubble. The beginning, after the attack, is a clear example of this problem. The writing did tighten in the middle, but the first portion of the ending frayed substantially and the novel failed to regain momentum. Suffering from a lack of restraint not only did the writing, which was lengthy and very stream of consciousness, smother the character, it ruined the plot, and the book in general, which, had it been executed differently, would have been brilliant.

I really believe that the style of writing was the only choice given the interplay between an inaccurately formed character and a measureless setting—at least from the vantage point of two young children. The setting birthed and/or supported a writing style that did demonstrate the unbroken line of trees, the overwhelming amount of mud, and inescapable waterline, so props to that.

So what came first? a style of writing that fared poorly given the setting or a character that was poorly composed and lacked a backdrop of typical child development, and whose qualities were only amplified by the style of writing? Like a kitten chasing after its own tail, it is difficult to establish if its a clear lack of knowledge of child development (IE the mind of the cat, totally unable to perceive stimuli) or the setting (IE the tail, encouraging a wrecking ball of repetitive, and after awhile quite irritating redundant sequences).

Doesn't matter….

Around and around you went, Bear, and where you stopped was a total, epic disaster.