Tag Archives: books

Jenny Lawson’s “Let’s Pretend this Never Happened,” – Stories that are hard to forget

I am The Great Mouse Hamlet!

I am The Great Mouse Hamlet!

One Sentence Review: Amazingly weird stories with a really long wind down to the conclusion, funny overall but not necessarily laugh out loud.

This is one of those memoirs that make me realize I’m NEVER going to be cool enough to write a memoir.  I’m relatively new to the memoir genre reading-wise (I knew they existed and what they were) and reading celebrity memoirs of course you kind of feel like, wow, they have a cool life, of course I want to read about them!  But when a regular person writes about things that never in a million years will happen to you, it takes you back a step.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want my arm crushed in a retracted cow-vagina, nor do I want to have debilitating physical or mental issues, but it does make me question my daily routine.

Jenny Lawson’s life has been far from routine, starting with her back-country background with dead squirrel puppets from her father and the cow-vagina incident, and ending with her nerd fame as “The Bloggess.”  As someone who was read the book first and the blog second, I would recommend some background blog reading first, only because I think you’re supposed to go in with the fore-knowledge that she may be whacky/funny/crass on the internet, but her home life is very different.  After she tells about the craziness that was growing up she starts to lift the veil on her social disorder and her then following physical disorder.  Her previous stories now are made a bit more clear, her being the only goth girl in the county, hell, maybe the whole of East Texas, because she wasn’t JUST an introvert.

This doesn’t become a downer of a book though, once this is revealed.  She shows her strength by continuing to be funny, retelling her domestic adventures of buying 5 foot tall metal roosters.

I only have two real criticisms: first is that there seems to be a few points where the book could have ended.  Now, I listened to the audio book and while entertaining, it got a bit long.  She seems to wrap it up in the first real return to her family’s home (in the book) and she and her sister sit on the porch realizing this family home isn’t THEIR family home, so therefore they’re not responsible for getting the goats out of the house.  But the book keeps going for the equivalent of at least an hour on the audio book.  The stories are still good, but feel a bit redundant.

The other is that once they’re married, much of the interactions between her and her husband make her seem like someone I would not want to live with.  She doesn’t ever seem to explain things to him as he walks in on her sprawled out flat on the floor, stuff scattered everywhere and the dog barking his head off.  Instead of giving him the real and reasonable explanation, she answers questions with questions and finally flippant, sarcastic answers that are only half the story, then rolls her eyes and gives up on really letting him in.  She comes off as superior and never taking responsibility.  I have a feeling that this isn’t how things actually happen between them, though.  I think it may just be a funnier version of a not-funny-at-the-time situation.  When it came to those stories, I had to remind myself of what she’s really going through, the mentally and physically draining problems she has.  In this way she’s actually holding the reader at arms length, even though she’s let us inside the many layers of her world.

To that I say, continue to let us in, or else what’s the point?  Still a really good book and I definitely recommend it to anyone who has ever felt weird and is okay with the word Vagina being repeated multiple times.  🙂

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Challenge Accepted!

This year I’ve attempted a LOT of things.  To exercise more, to crochet more, eat healthier, write more, and join groups (and then actually attend outings with said groups) just to name a few.  I know there are challenges and goals we all set for ourselves, and many of us do fall short, including myself, over, and over, and over . . .  It’s a bit worrisome at times.  It feels like failure.  I mean, how could it not?

Well, today (or rather, Friday night) I DID accomplish something: If you check out my sidebar I posted a Reading Challenge through the site Goodreads.  Because I am 26 this year I decided to read 26 books starting in January of 2012.  Last year I tried to do this and only did about 19 out of the 25 book goal I set for myself.  But this year, I DID IT!!  I read all 26 books, and it feels good.  It may seem a little lame, especially to my friends who read quite a bit more than I do (my friend Kim read 100 books before the end of the year, achieving her goal by about October I believe) but this is probably the most books I’ve ever read in 1 year.  I think I like movies and television a bit too much, but oh well.

And the books were fantastic.  Almost all were books I had never read before, and each of them were so different, even if they were from a series.  They were all fiction – I attempted some non-fiction and then set them aside – and ranged from real to surreal.  None of them were epic by any means but all of them, even the YA fiction, gave a new perspective and left me with something to think about.  This, in the end, is really the minimum you should ask of a book – give me something to chew on, even with the fluffy, beach read type books.  Give me a new perspective on relationships, on history, on culture, on sex and love and hope and meaning and the devil and heaven.  What does it mean to be a woman, a man?  How does it feel to experience the world in someone else’s skin?  And not once did the books end the way I predicted, not exactly.

I guess the same can also be said of the challenges I put in front of myself in general.  Even if the goal isn’t achieved I’ve been trying my best to be happy with what I’ve attempted and learn from those things.  They didn’t all get the follow through I’d like but that didn’t mean I walked away with nothing.

So, hooray to achieving goals, and here’s to another year of challenges 🙂

 

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“Bleak House” Read-A-Long

 

One of my favorite blogs to keep up with is Sophisticated Dorkiness written by my friend Kim.  I have had the privilege of being friends with Kim since we were about 12 but I rarely get to see her being that she lives in North-West Minnesota and I live in South-East Missouri.  So, when she posted about doing a read-a-long I thought it would be a great way to connect with her and try to tackle Dickens, my Mt. Everest as far as authors are concerned.  Now, Kim reads a LOT (her Goodreads widget has a goal of 100 books for 2012 whereas mine has 26.  She’s listened to/read 97, I’ve listened to/read 22) but I think the playing field will be leveled a bit it with “Bleak House” being 800 pages or so and, again, being Dickens.   Kim shared this through a Bloggess she follows Jenny Loves to read, and if as a fellow blogger you’d like to read-a-long as well follow the link, and leave me a holla’ holla’ in the comments!

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My DAD made me read it! or, how my Dad still influences my literary life

Shush!!  Don’t tell my dad I’m writing about him 🙂

Recently I have been reading a LOT of young adult fiction.  It started when a friend of mine asked me to take over/restart a book club for the Ladies of the Lou’ Crew.  Being that we would have our first meeting in late October I asked if she would mind something scary/creepy, which she did not, and since both our names being Katie isn’t the only thing we have in common she was all for it when I suggested the post-apocalyptic zombie YA thriller The Forest of Hands and Teeth.  I was so excited to start the book club I ran out to my local municipal library (1 of 3 library systems in StL, of which I am a member of 2 so far)  and read it almost a month in advance of the meeting.  I liked the book quite a lot: it was creepy, scary, mysterious, and had a love story to boot.  The two in love were of course star-crossed – I mean, who isn’t in a post-apocalyptic society? – and doomed from the get-go, though, not just because of societal law, which I was glad of, but also because of a conflicted female lead who wanted more.  No turning into a monster to be with the one you love Twilight crap for this girl.  And being that I was such a fan of The Forest of Hands and Teeth it again made me take up the search for THE. FIRST. BOOK.

You probably have one of these as well, dear reader 🙂  It’s that book that brought you across the threshold, the turning point in your reading: when you went from kid books to Grown Up Books.  This is where my Dad factors in.  My FIRST BOOK was handed to me by my Dad after one of his latest trips to the Real Library, as opposed to the elementary school library I went to with my class once a week.  My Dad can spend hours in a library, looking over book after book, choosing just the right one.  He has to find exactly what he wants because he’s a slow reader and a lover of dense sci-fi novels.  I don’t know that I ever went to the Anoka County Library until I was at least twelve and to me it seemed like a grown up place for serious reading, somewhat mysterious since my Dad would disappear there for hours at a time.

After one such trip my dad handed me THE FIRST BOOK and said he thought I might want to give this a try.  He had noticed that the reading material I had selected for myself was usually gobbled up in a few days time and consisted of The Babysitter’s Club almost exclusively.  I remember being very proud when my dad told me he was impressed with how I could read three to four books concurrently and not only keep track of the individual storylines but the actual page I was on without a single book mark.

Now, he might not really remember doing this, but to me, him handing me a book from the Real Library meant I was ready for LITERATURE.  I remember lying down on my parents old queen-sized bed I had in my new room at the time and having to slow down and re-read the opening paragraphs again and again until I got into the flow of this more mature writing style.  The book was about a young girl who met a boy and together he was going to help her become a witch like him.  The cover, I remember, was black with a ghostly pale girl with black bushy hair on the front.  She had haunting eyes and stared out at you from the blackness.  At the time I was really into witches and magic: think more Salem Witch Trials than Harry Potter.  Unfortunately, I struggled with it and, sadly, at the end of three weeks, I still hadn’t finished it.  I had half-lost interest in it which is why I think my dad returned it without a renewal.

And that was the last time I saw that book.

I moved on to other great books: Little Women and The Hobbit, the latter of which my Dad had read to me when I was younger.  THE FIRST BOOK wasn’t the first or the last time my dad influenced my reading.  He had been reading to my brother and me since we were really little: golden books, these great fully illustrated Disney books, Laura Ingalls Wilder, Tolkein, and the occasional short story by Stephen King – the one about the cocaine addict stranded on a desert island who eats his own limbs still gives me the chills. I liked every book he read, becoming engrossed in the characters, all of which he gave different voices, and loved equally the family life of the Ingalls and the grand sweeping adventures of Bilbo.  My brother didn’t really share in this enthusiasm, try as my dad might, though he became an avid reader later.  And it was around the end of The Hobbit that I got my own room, and story-time was done.

When my dad felt we were old enough he was the one to take my brother and me to the Anoka County Library.  Many times the books I chose dealt with something supernatural – ghosts were another big favorite of mine.  At one point I decided I would try to find THE BOOK.  It was then I realized that I had, *gasp!* forgotten the title.  I asked my dad several times if he remembered, but this was probably a couple years later by now.  I was certain the book was titled simply Witch and I knew for certain the girl’s mother was named Kate, but the library didn’t carry anything that I recognized by that name.  I read The Witching Hour and consequently my first novel sex scene, and other such books of a supernatural and dark nature, but never THE FIRST BOOK.

As an adult even the almighty Google let me down.  Only this past month did I discover a group on the site Goodreads for those searching for books from their past.  I don’t know what kind of crazy you have to be to figure out what book someone is talking about from a vague description, but it’s a crazy I like because:

They found it.

They found THE FIRST BOOK.

The ever elusive book from my childhood reading transition.  The one I had been casually searching for the past 15 years or so.  It was called The Changeover: a Supernatural Romance.  I searched the title in the Goodreads database and there it was.  The same haunted, ghostly pale girl staring out from a black cover.  So I was wrong about the title, but the description stated the female lead’s mom was name Kate!  And it was about a girl who meets a boy who helps her change into a witch, just like him.  I couldn’t believe it.  I was so excited I didn’t even care that my first grownup book turned out to be a cheesy-titled YA novel – I had finally found it, the mystery was solved.

That same night, three Mondays ago, I went and picked up a copy from the municipal library branch down the street.  Turns out it was a YA fiction novel which I retrieved from the “Teen Spot” marked by a neon sign that the 90’s would like back, please.  Oddly enough I still haven’t finished it as I have a tendency to still try to read three to four books at the same time, only now my books are a bit more complex (YA not included) and my grownup responsibilities make it so I have to choose one eventually and stick with it until it’s finished before I can go onto the next.

I called my dad the Wednesday after I got it at the library.  As I suspected, he did not remember the book, but I think it warmed his heart to know that it had been important to me.  Since living in StL I talk to my parents about once every couple of weeks on average and most of the time my dad and I discuss TV, movies, and books.  His long-time love of scifi still remains and he recommends different ones he thinks I’d like since my more recently discovered interest in post-apocalyptic plots and shows like “Doctor Who” and “Torchwood.”  It feels like a new stage we’ve entered, being grownups and recommending back and forth, since being a teenager and a college student usually involves discovering things on your own, different from your parents.

But then I think back and realize, my dad didn’t stop being interested and then gain interest again in my tastes in entertainment.  He read the whole Harry Potter series with my brother and me, and got me a copy of The Shining.  He even read Practical Magic for goodness sake.  I don’t know that he liked it all that much, but he read it because I liked it so much.

So, thanks, Dad, for doing what some parents can’t seem to do ever: give a crap about what I like.  Taking the time to share with me and let me share back.  For reading The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo even though you thought most of it was “dreck” and texting me scifi recommendations. I look forward to our next discussion.

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30 Day Challenge

http://www.stumbleupon.com/su/1GDCAp/:sAeLELXq:9a3nDh6!/www.highexistence.com/30-challenges-for-30-days/

Starting tomorrow, August 15th, 2012, I would like to attempt this 30 day challenge as found on HighExistence.  My friend Emily posted this on her facebook wall and I think it would be amazing to try.  They have some great ideas which I would like to attempt and document it here, which means part of my 30 day challenge would be posting on this blog again, yay!  I will officially post what I’m going to try and accomplish tomorrow since right now I have about 10 things I REALLY want to do but should (possibly) try to narrow down.  I’d also like to do one just for work, but that one will probably be SUUPAH-BORING (“suupah” being how you would say it if you’re Nicki Minaj) for you, as well as for myself, but it’s something I’d like to accomplish anyway.  The things I’m thinking about right now are:
Crocheting each day: at least 1 row of the blanket I’ve been working on for about a year now

Practice trombone: really want to get back on the horse, just gotta find the time/space/guts

Take a 30 minute walk each day (from the website)

Exercise each day: which if I do the walk, two birds!

Write a “What I like about you” note to someone who is important to me each day (from the website): this will give me the opportunity to do what I’ve wanted to for a VERY LONG TIME because sometimes I’m terrible at telling people how much I love/appreciate them and why

-Read a chapter each day (from the website): I’ve fallen off my book wagon and have to get back on!!

-“Love Thyself” (from the website): I’m a hater who be hatin’ on myself sometimes and it’s got to stop – whoah, s— got real 🙂

-Study a topic to master (from the website): I’d like to get back to studying music and bone up on ear training/theory because I know I’ve lost what little knowledge I had . . .

-Listen to a new/different album each day: man, I totally didn’t accomplish my goals with my ipod challenge, this could help though!

-Write a Novel (from the website): This is something I might wait until November to do, I found a nifty website, not even sure what I’d write about but is on my bucket list to be a published author.  Once upon a time this girl had dreams of being a writer for a living.

As for Work: I don’t really post about work here so I’ll probably just make a list for my desk, again, just boring stuff like voice mail follow ups and trying to take on extra projects.

Another project I would like to work on as well is one for the State Fair:

http://www.mnstatefair.org/art/

It’s a contest for making the next “The Great MN Get Together” ad campaign/poster.  I’m not a professional artist but I do love the MN State Fair: so much so that I’m making a special trip to MN to go hang out with my mom and my brother’s girlfriend on the opening weekend of the fair.  The deadline for submission is October 24th and you have to send in a resume and stuff with examples of your other work, so I’m sure I won’t even be considered, but how will I know if I don’t even try?

Finally, regarding new challenges: I’ve volunteered to do PR stuff for the community band I joined here in StL, Band Together.  The group is getting a new website through Word Press which I might be helping out with here and there, possibly more content stuff than anything, but more importantly getting in contact with local newspapers/radio stations/tv(?) to promote this great group!  I love to do this kind of stuff and why not for a group that I’ve definitely fallen in love with since moving to StL.  I would not have met Kelsey if not for this group and through her many, many, MANY people.  AND it keeps me playing, AND I got to be in the Pride Parade which is the most fun I’ve had at a parade since U of M Marching Band.

I know that I had a “goals” post before but I’ve been making some changes in my life over the past couple months and have done a decent job of keeping up with them.  Either way, just trying is half the battle, wish me luck! 

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And what are YOU up to . . . ?

Just thought I’d post some things I would like to accomplish/do this year. I realize that the New Year is now 15 days in and I do have a few creative goals:

1) Get back to playing my trombone on a regular basis. Joining the community band was step one, now to get my act together and actually start practicing a few times a week. If I could find a lesson teacher who would work with me for zilch that would be excellent, but I have my doubts . . .

With Goal 1 something to think about is trying to get my chops up to a point where I would be comfortable teaching beginner lessons – if any of you have some good lesson materials you could recommend I’d appreciate it. I may start fiddling around on MC’s trumpet as well.

2) Finish crocheting a blanket – hopefully I’ll post some pictures of my progress but I’m pretty bad at posting pictures, in that I don’t take a lot of pictures and the ones I do usually just don’t end up online. I’m doing a wave/zig-zag pattern with peach, cream, and green.

3) I had a goal this past year to read 25 books. I fell short of my goal by about 7 books but at one point I was working 2 jobs 14 hours a day, so, I fell a bit behind. Since I take the metrolink to work (train system in STL, akin to Lightrail, El, & Subway) I should have more time to get my READS on and plan on trying to reach a goal of 26 books this year. Currently I am trying to finish up “The Girl Who Played With Fire” by Stieg Larsson, 2nd in the “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” trilogy. Since I still had about 250 pages left I’m thinking I will consider it part of 2012 reading, any votes on adding it to my 2011 list vs. 2012?
I am also reading “The Master and Margarita” by Mikail Bulgakov.

4) Dig into a music project, some ideas I’m playing around with are about Movie Music Scores, another is kind of a “Soundtrack of Your Life” – what songs bring forth strong memories for you? Like, oddly enough, I associate a song by Avril Lavigne with my Grandmother’s death (more on that if/when I dig into that project). And finally, a different project: if I were to host a radio show, say for just one hour a day, one day a week, what would I spin? I’m thinking up set lists and themes, just for the fun of it really – one idea would be stories/themes we find in music. Yeah, there’s love and heartbreak, pretty much the biggest two out there, but while listening to Fiona Apple’s “Criminal” I thought about songs that fit that theme – honestly I subconciously stole the first 2 song set from my Bluecoats 2007 show that was titled “Criminal” which used a tiny bit of “Smooth Criminal” by Michael Jackson and originally the show coordinators bandied about the idea to put the line “I’ve been a bad, bad girl” from the Fiona Apple song at the top of the show.

Another 2 song set I thought of was “Ode To Billy Joe” by Bobbi Gentry and “Brick” by Ben Folds Five. Though “Ode” according to Bobbi Gentry was never actually about what was thrown off the bridge, it definitely surrounds a couple who face a great trauma and what it does to them. “Brick” is quite blatant about it being centered on an abortion, and, according to Ben Folds, isn’t a statement about abortion but rather what a traumatic experience it was and how it affected him and his girlfriend. This is something, the connecting of songs in themes, that I would like to explore on this blog in a little more depth as it’s fascinating to me how the “ballad” (the true meaning of ballad is a song that tells a story) as a genre keeps living, evolving, as well as staying the same.

Anyway, that’s what I’ve got going on – the blanket is back in it’s beginnings, the books are underway, the trombone practicing has a site and I am constantly mulling over my music.

Oh, and I just made brownies 🙂

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Where do I begin?

Being that this is my first blog post in a few years (ah, xanga, those were the days) I guess I will begin with a brief introduction. I am Kj, and I recently moved to St. Louis (STL) to live with my boyfriend MC who is an architecture grad student at WashU. I wanted to make sure I documented my time here, being that I’ve never lived outside the state of MN, or really more than a half hour from my family, with like, the apartment and the job and such. I miss MN terribly, but probably because my whole life was there, and it’s been a tough transition leaving it behind and starting at square one.

Some things I want to touch on with this blog is this relationship that I moved ten hours away for.  MC supports this, especially since he gets to be referred to as “MC” – he’s pretty into hip-hop and club music, buying himself 2 turntables in high school in hopes of learning to scratch 🙂 I feel like he and I have gone through more in the past 3 and a half months than in our whole 3 years together and I’m still trying to figure out what it truly means to be in this journey together. Who knows, if he ever has time he may guest star on the blog 🙂

BUT: I also have some other ambitions. I have a music degree and hope to put it to some good use, even if it is just for hobby purposes. Also, this way I get to combine writing and music, both of which I have always loved. I may even throw in some stuff about books, cooking, and living in my new city. So, bear with me, folks, it’s going to be scattered for awhile.

So, with this adventure, I do wonder where to begin.  I’d like to title my posts with the music going on in my brain, whether it just be my song of the day or connecting to the actual post topic. “Where Do I Begin” is also the title of a song done for the movie “Love Story.”  I found a really great version that was done by Shirley Bassey and remixed by A-Team. If I’ve done this correctly I will have a link to this version on youtube.

Better than the words to this song is the fact that it is a fully orchestrated traditional version remixed that makes me feel like both MC and I are represented. I just hope my appendix being taken out will suffice as a big medical ordeal.  I also ask this question because, unknowingly, MC and I started this journey awhile ago, with a beautiful day in October, a 40 minute conversation, and a date that our friends never thought would happen in a million years. I took a chance, asked him out in the most awkward way imaginable, figured nothing would really come of it, and now I’m in STL. In a way this fits my idea of “retroactive destiny” where you add up the events in your life and see where the decisions you made, or didn’t make, led you to where you are now. This allows for no regrets as I see the things I thought I was missing out on brought me experiences with friends and family I would have never thought possible.

But more importantly, on this adventure, or as I like to say “Ad-ven-CHAR!!” I look to two lines in this song. For now, they ring more true to me than anything. I also hope that it is a comfort to my mom and dad, my brother, and all my friends:

“I reach for his hand, it’s always there . . . and he’ll be there.”

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