Welcome to Book Corner where we will all sit down with cups of tea and I will serve you fresh baked cookies and tell you about a book I think you absolutely should read. And after you can come back, (or stay if you’ve already read it) and tell me all of your thoughts and opinions you have to share.
“We laughed and laughed, together and separately, out loud and silently, we were determined to ignore whatever needed to be ignored, to build a new world from nothing if nothing in our world could be salvaged, it was one of the best days of my life, a day during which I lived my life and didn’t think about my life at all.”
I recently saw Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close in the theaters. It was every bit as beautiful and heartbreaking as I expected it to be. Unfortunately, it also changed what the story was about and took away what I loved about the book.
“Humans are the only animal that blushes, laughs, has religion, wages war, and kisses with lips. So in a way, the more you kiss with lips, the more human you are.”
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer is about a journey. Eleven year old Oscar is a witty, sweet and insightful kid suffering a loss that’s hard for anyone who hasn’t been there to imagine. But because of this loss he goes on a treasure hunt of sorts that leads him all around New York City talking to dozens of people with the last name of Black. He learns their stories and through them he learns who he is.
“..Literature was the only religion her father practiced, when a book fell on the floor he kissed it, when he was done with a book he tried to give it away to someone who would love it..”
“You cannot protect yourself from sadness without protecting yourself from happiness.”
all italicized quotes credited to Jonathan Safran Foer in his novel Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close
“So many people enter and leave your life! Hundreds of thousands of people! You have to keep the door open so they can come in! But it also means you have to let them go!”
Looking For Alaska – John Green. It’s a coming of age novel. It’s The Perks of Being a Wall Flower meets something else (ha, clever, right? oh…) mixed with a little bit of tragedy. It’s about life. And there you are.
Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children – Ransom Biggs. There are photographs to accompany this novel, strange ones. If you’ve ever loved reading not so happily-ever-after fairy tales and enjoy the idea of alternate worlds or monsters coming to get you if you have special talents this book is for you.
Every You, Every Me – David Levithan. Another book with photographs and this book needs them. In fact, this novel was written from photographs the photographer provided Levithan as he wrote. The photographer didn’t know anything about the story and the story was crafted from whatever Levithan was given next. It’s about love and loss and what you do when someone you love needs the right kind of help.
Scorpio Races – Maggie Stiefvater. Maggie is an ACE at setting in this novel. It’s beautiful and dreamy and dark and just plain old damn. There’s killer sea horses, a girl who only has her brothers left and a boy who learned to love a monster. Also there are November Cakes. I want to make them soon.
13 Little Blue Envelopes – Maureen Johnson. So, I’ve been following Maureen Johnson on Twitter for the past month yet I’ve never read any of her books. I loved this one because it involves a scavenger hunt of sorts, directed by a dead relative (I think Maureen Johnson was reading my Nana Sprinkles thoughts, to be honest. Even though this novel has been published for far longer than Nana Sprinkles has been an idea…) and it takes place all around Europe. These are all things that I enjoy. Especially when Rome is involved.
(*You who is open minded in your reading endeavors or favors Young Adult fiction or believes there shouldn’t be line, because you can’t tell me how old I should be to read a certain book)
I am in a search for magic. Not the Wiccan Goddess kind and not the kind that involves waving around a want while saying, “Expecto patronum” but the magic that is infused in every ounce of life. The magic that makes life feel like fiction and scenes from movies. The sort of magic where life feels like it needs a soundtrack and it probably already has one, even if you haven’t made the mix tape.
I want to use Melanie Kristy as a venue for such magic. I want to share everything I see and do. And I want input.
Instead of making this post about what is magical to me, I will refrain from making lists, because I’m still searching. In the past I feel like spending money and eating out attributed to making life feel magical. I’ve baked pretty cupcakes and those were damn magical in their own ways. But no, I want to know what you find in life that makes you feel like life is a story.
What makes you want to photograph the emotions you are feeling?
Can’t think of anything? Drive to the nearest ocean, close your eyes and smell the salt water. Then dive in. Come back and tell me about magic.
And, in turn, I will do the same.
So, it’s no longer Thursday, but I’m sitting here in a post Harry Potter hangover, seeking hydration (I ate way too many Salt N Vinegar chips) thinking, well I haven’t posted all week. I’ve been sick (with what might be a third case of strep throat in four months. Or just a whole lot of tonsil problems?). I’ve decided to do a Things I Love Harry Potter list incorporating the books and movies alike. (I started this post on Friday, and now it’s Saturday and I’m finishing it. And it was supposed to post way before this. Somehow I managed to fail at pressing “publish”) Here are just a few things, because honestly there are few things that I don’t love about Harry Potter’s world.
* Midnight book releases and movie premiers The experience is worth doing at least once (though you no long can with Harry Potter) for the excitement and character all around.
* Alan Rickman. He’s just amazing as Snape.
* The Wonderful World of Harry Potter theme park. I’ve yet to find someone willing to commit to spending a day or two with me roaming the streets of Hogsmeade and riding through Hogwarts Castle, but I will someday. Or maybe I’ll just take myself on a grand adventure.
* Butterbeer and Pumpkin Pasties. A lot of the foods mentioned in Harry Potter books aren’t to my liking, but then there are the sweets and these two particular creations that I’d love to try. Also, Pumpkin Juice
* The Room Of Requirement – a secret room in Hogwarts that becomes anything you need it to become at just the time you need it. It’s been a bathroom, a hiding place and a place to practice Defense Against the Dark Arts spells.
* The Loyalty. Harry remains “Dumbledore’s man, through and through” as he admits to in Half Blood Prince. Even when truths are revealed about Dumbledore’s past, even when Harry realizes that Dumbledore has led him through this journey with the idea that Harry must die at the end, Harry remains true to Dumbledore. Snape’s loyalty to Lily Potter may seem flaky by his obvious hatred for her son, but in reality, this hatred is stemmed by the existence of the man who one Lily’s heart; James Potter. And even after their deaths, Snape is willing to remain loyal to Lily. He plays an incredibly believable double agent to the point where no one is really sure where his loyalty lies until the very end of the series.
* Love. This theme is reinforced in every book. Love is more important than anything else.
* Lune Lovegood. She’s quirky and strange, she believes in creatures that other Harry Potter characters don’t think exist and she’s loyal and friendly. She’s adorable and unintentionally hilarious. Luna lives inside her head in her own world, but she’s there for the characters when they — and the story — need it most. Luna is on the list of favorite characters for me, most definitely.
* Owls carry mail. And they’re pets. Totally cool.
What do you love about Harry Potter?
I am fascinated by the idea of sisterhood, so much that my freshman year of college I started my own with a pair of red Chuck Taylor high tops and a few faraway friends. We passed our sneakers around monthly, writing in a journal and taking pictures. We all had a band in common and a shared love for The Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants, a series of books by Ann Brashares.
The books were about four girls who grew up together. At the start of the first book they were about to spend their summers apart for the first time. And so upon finding a thrift store pair of jeans that miraculously fit all four differently shaped girls they decided to use those pants to keep them together in spirit while they were apart.
Maybe it does sound corny, but don’t you have tokens of friendship that remind you of who you are or who you were? There are parts to each friendship that make it unique, whether it’s a pair of pants or journals that as passed back and forth or a mini garden gnome wanting to travel. These are the aspects of friendship that attracted me to this series originally, when I was much younger. What kept me reading were the personalities, the fact that I could find something to relate to in each main character, sharing their memories and having another book to look forward to.
When the series ended on book four with the summer after the girls’ freshman year of college, I was sad but satisfied. I had the books to reread and there were two movies. The first one is one of my favourites, one of those movies I watch when I’m looking for comfort (and pretty Santorini landscapes) and I keep going back to it year after year.
But now there is a fifth book. Jump ten years later, and into the adult section of your bookstore, and you find another book full of stories of these same characters. Sisterhood Everlasting is devastating and it is beautiful.
Yet again I found myself identifying with different parts of each character and I was enveloped in the idea of sisterhood. The novel deals with the question “what happened to sisterhood when we start to grow up?” At the end of the forth novel, the pants are lost in Greece forever. The girls entertain the thought that maybe their friendship was lost with that pair of pants. But ultimately, friendship is not about a pair of unwashed jeans. It’s about the ties you make with the people you love and it’s about remembering that love and your past and the connection between friends despite all what the “real world” has to throw at you.
In a lot of ways I am a “book collector”. I buy books cheap or use Borders coupon. I know when certain authors are releasing books and I have to have them right away. I see books used and scoop them up, knowing I plan to read them at some point, some day. And so this is my collection.
The shelves of unread books I should probably get around to sometime. And I keep on reading, but somehow the collection grows. In only shrinks when I decided I probably won’t ever read that book, then it gets moved to a pile to be given back somewhere. I hope that some day I’ll finish these books, I’ll be on top of my “to be read” pile, at least of the ones that I own (I know the real to be read pile is never ending) but for now I am content with watching them on a bookshelf where they are endlessly full of potential.
When I go over someone’s house, one of the things I absolutely love to do is read the titles on their bookshelf. What’s on your bookshelf? (To be read, or not…)
“Writing and reading has always been a huge escape for me. One of the things I want to convey to my reader is that. I want to provide them that same escape.” This is what I tell nine girls and Francesca Lia Block. We are going around a circle talking about either, the one message we’d like to convey through our writing, or why we write. This is why I write.
“I can tell from reading your piece that you got a lot of pleasure out of writing it. You had fun, and you definitely convey that to the reader.” This is coming from Francesca Lia Block herself, the goddess whose writing I’ve worshiped and studied since high school. She is the woman who has taught me the most through her words. Through her I’ve met some of my closest (albeit not physically close) friends. And here she is, commenting on my own working.
Francesca sits on the edge of the chair with her legs crossed. She looks like she’s ready to take flight, yet at the same time she appears comfortable and grounded. It’s the beginning of summer in New England and she wears a black leather jacket indoors. Later she comments that she must be cold blooded since the rest of us are in t-shirts. Her boots are tall, pleather and shiny over black jeans. When she reads the piece I’ve submitted to be work-shopped, she laughs out loud often. I am so pleased by this reaction that I can’t help but grinning.
She says my story is charming. Later a few other girls comment on things that I’ve mentioned in the story. Vegan Love Cakes are appreciated by the vegan girl. The dream my main character has about floating on a cheese danish makes another girl realize that is also her dream. We laugh around a table covered in oreo brownies, lemon meringue cookies, and veggies with hummus.
When I first saw on Facebook that Francesca Lia Block would be making a rare appearance in Boston, I knew I would have to go. I rearranged a few work things and decided that I would be there for everything possible. Then to learn that Francesca was offering a workshop! As a writer, this is more exciting that word can even express. I compared it to meeting Hanson, but if you don’t understand that, then maybe my words aren’t enough. It’s almost better than meeting Hanson. I have feedback about my writing from my favourite author. This is who I am. This is what I want to do.
The day before the workshop, Ari and I took the T into Cambridge. We found the Cambridge Public Library, a library so beautiful I got chills, and went to find the Main Lecture Hall. The guy at the desk teased me when I asked if he could tell me where it was. “Yes, I can.” Was his response. “Will you please tell me?” I smiled. Yes. He would.
We took the elevator in the wrong direction before redirecting ourselves and making it to L2. We ducked inside fifteen minutes late. We missed the actual reading, but Francesca was answering questions. For an hour she told us about her writing process and her upcoming books. She asked who we thought should be cast in the Weetzie Bat movie. She answered questions about writing, gave advice on life.
After she signed books in the hallway. Fifty some-odd girls lined up. I bought Ari a book and we waited in line, getting closer and closer. I snuck a picture. I grinned a lot and was unable to stand still. When it was finally my turn, I excitedly hold her I would be at her workshop. I forgot to introduce myself. She smiled opened the book to see where my name was written (on a post-in someone passed out earlier). I forgot to ask for a picture with her and seconds later it was Ari’s turn. We left with signed books, on our way to meet Shaylin for delicious sandwiches. I saw earrings in a jewelry store that were ladybugs and I had to have them.
Sunday I am on my own all day. My mom worries about me wandering the streets of Jamaica Plain by myself. As if it wasn’t one o’clock in the afternoon. I am excited and nervous. I don’t want to be disappointed. A book signing is one this, but this is different. This is real life weaving its way into my dreams. This is my dream unfolding in ways I never imagined. This is my fiction and my creations blending with the fictional world of Francesca Lia Block.
Sometimes it’s hard to imagine people as real people who eat and live and sleep in beds like you do. When you’re little you are unsettled by seeing your teachers outside of the school environment. When you’re sitting ten feet from your favourite author, hearing her talk about something you wrote, it feels like it isn’t happening at all. It feels like those moments in life when you think to yourself, this moment feels like a movie.
After the workshop part we take the time to go over basic elements. Francesca suggests ways to make characters sympathetic. She tries to offer more specific suggestions for our work. She turns to offer to sign something for me but catches herself, “Oh, you had signed something yesterday.” So instead I ask for a picture. I hand off my iPhone wishing I had brought something more professional (also wishing I owned something much more professional that was also digital). The picture is as surreal as the afternoon has been.
When I leave she hugs me and tells me to keep writing. I return to the streets with a refreshed sense of self. My senses seem a little sharper. I am more aware. This feeling is one I want to remember and this moment I want to take with me.