Friday, January 29, 2010

Friday Five: I'm Baaaack Edition

Hey, all! Here's a Friday Five for a cold January morning:

1. J.D. Salinger, RIP. I was bummed about Howard Zinn passing on, but this one really, really hurts. The Catcher in the Rye was that book for me, the one to make me feel like I wasn't alone in the world. This means a lot when you're fourteen. And as I got older I appreciated his other stuff even more; in my early twenties I was completely obsessed with Seymour Glass, a creation I believe (with very little evidence) was the closest fictional representation of Salinger. I haven't read his stuff in years, but I predict a Glass Family binge for me this spring.

2. iPad. Regardless of the truly craptastic name (I mean, did they have any women at all in their focus groups?), I think the iPad is fairly awkward and impractical. Apple is going to have to work pretty hard to convince me otherwise.

3. Joisey Shore. I watched episode six last night, so I'm all caught up on the adventures of Snookie, Ronnie, and The Situation. I love these kids for their simplicity (Gym-Tan-Laundry) and the way they fully embrace their cultural identity. They are what they are, these guidos and guidettes. This is a total throwback show, and not to the 90s, where the kids are kind of stuck, fashion-wise, but waaaay back, like to Frankie and Annette frolicking in Beach Blanket Bingo and Yvette Mimieux experiencing Snookie-like drama in Where the Boys Are. Even with the drinking and hot-tub shenanigans, these kids are just looking for a good time, and when the bad times come, they stick up for each other, because they're, like, family. This is a wholesome show. It really is.

4. Knitting. I'm doing it! Two lessons and I can make a scarf. So I'm taking orders. If you want a cute, ladder stitch scarf with dropped stitches, random holes, and strange lumps, I'm your gal.

5. The Big Chill. It's flippin' cold in Chi this morning. 5 degrees. This should be good for writing, as there's no way I'm going outside. But it's seriously so cold where I type that my fingers are stiff. Oh, spring, you can't come soon enough!

Have a good weekend!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Howl at the Moon

(Just got back from a teacher institute/seminar thingy and I'm about to get back to my revision, but first a few minutes of....PROCRASTINATION!!!! Whoo-Hoo!)

I love film adaptations. Novels either fare well or get completely warped beyond recognition, but, hey, it's always fun to see how a filmmaker interprets a writer's vision. Author bio-pics, though? Ugh. Hate them. I know there aren't that many, but the ones I've seen have been stinko. Some examples: Heart Beat (John Heard as Jack Kerouac!!! Really???), Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (I love my Johnny, but his Hunter S. Thompson works my every last nerve.), and even Jane Fonda as Lillian Hellman in Julia (Ugh. I know people like it, but...Ugh.)

So you can imagine my horror when I found out James Franco was hired to play Allen Ginsberg.

Everyone gets a little geeky to the point of obsession about something. For me it's Beat Generation writers. Jack Kerouac. Allen Ginsberg. Gary Snyder. William Burroughs. But especially Jack and Allen. I'm pretty sure I wouldn't have moved to NYC if I hadn't read Kerouac's On the Road. And I wouldn't be able to really appreciate what can be done with language if I hadn't read Ginsberg's poetry to the point of memorization. I'm almost ashamed to admit how much my high school fashion sense (um, if you can call it that) and basic worldview were strongly shaped by these writers' lifestyles.

One of the best nights of my life was spent at a Beat Generation literary festival held at NYU. I sat in a small auditorium listening to surviving Beat writers perform their work. A thin older gentleman sat in front of me, bopping along to the words, jumping out of his seat when the mood struck, and finally leaping on stage to grab the mic. It was Allen Ginsberg. He must have been at least 70 years old.

So today I saw some clips from the soon-to-be-released Howl. The filmmakers decided to focus on Ginsberg's 1950s obscenity trial. Even though that piqued my interest, I was prepared to hate it. Really hate it. But...

Franco is fantastic. He gets the voice down, the attitude, the energy. Check it out if you have any interest. (Oh, and in clips #3 & #4, my boyfriend Jon Hamm plays a lawyer.) I think I found an author bio-pic I just might like!

Sunday, January 10, 2010


...taking a short hiatus to finish up a writing if I can only stay away from the Jersey Shore...

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Is Time on My Side?

I get home pretty late from work, and though I really should just wash my face and crash out, I can't. I need to unwind a little, and this usually takes the form of watching bad TV and eating food I'd never admit to keeping in the house (Pop Tarts! Yo-Gos!). But with Mad Men, Glee & True Blood on hiatus, and Lost not starting until February, the pickings are pretty slim on my DVR. Last night I was scrolling though the guide, so desperate I almost turned on Bride Wars, when I saw The River's Edge was starting. I clicked INFO and saw the date. 1986. Nineteen-freaking-eighty six. I remember seeing it in the theaters. I wasn't old enough then, but in the 80s theaters just took your money, no questions asked. I went with my friends and we drank vodka we'd poured into empty perfume bottles (a whole nother story). I was obsessed with Keanu (that's Kay-ah-noo, not Kee-yah-noo--get it right) Reeves and was secretly delighted Ione Skye dressed all grungy, like me. I thought the movie was cool. If pressed, I'd probably say it was "really deep and metaphysical" (I didn't really know what metaphysical meant, but I used the word all the time.). The next week I probably went to see The Sure Thing or Ferris Bueller and forgot most of what I saw in River's Edge (except for Kay-ah-noo).

Totally different experience twenty-odd years later. No vodka for me--just chamomile tea and some Spanish cheese leftover from New Year's Eve. As the movie progressed I found I could not pay attention to it--even though Dennis Hopper and Crispin Glover put on quite a show--because I felt so horrified on behalf of the young actors. Ione Skye was sixteen when she made this movie, and she has sex onscreen! OK, she's miming real sex, but still. There is a twelve-year-old kid in it and he's shooting off a gun and throwing around the f-bomb! All I could think was, where were their mothers?

The lines between the generations are the blurriest they've ever been. The girl who babysits for my boys shops at the same clothing stores I do. My son listens to Green Day. I listen to Green Day. My freaking father-in-law listens to Green Day. I like to think I'm still pretty young, pretty hip. But every so often, something comes along and reminds me that twenty years have gone by. And I have changed with age. A lot.

I wonder how this affects my writing. I write YA because I loved that time of my life, even though it was often horrible. I feel close to all the emotions--in fact, it feels like they live right below the surface of my skin sometimes, so accessible, so fresh. But I wonder about the impact of time on memory. I wonder about what things don't ever change and what do. I think about the writers I know who still possess their SAT study guides and prom dresses. I wonder how my perspective differs from theirs. Then I wonder if it really matters. What do you guys think?

Tuesday, January 5, 2010


I just finished Chris Bohjalian's beautifully written book, Skeletons at the Feast. A World War II era romance, full of vivid characters and heart-stopping tragedies, Skeletons at the Feast is nearly perfect.

Yeah, I said nearly. At first I couldn't put my finger on the problem I had with the novel, but then it hit me. There was no real conflict between the main characters. I suppose when Nazis are in a novel the whole villain thing is covered, but that's pretty much a given in a WWII story. Some of the main characters are also Nazis, but simply because they are German. And they are just all so dang nice, all the time, that the small conflicts between them and their traveling companions (They are refugees fleeing the Russian army's advance across Germany.) disappear like wisps of smoke before anyone really notices.

So basically I think Bohjalian's mistake was assuming the gentle conflicts between these people were enough when buffeted by Nazi brutality and Russian atrocities. Not to discount the horrors of war, but this is expected. I was looking for the drama between the people I was reading the book to find out more about, the characters Bohjalian cracked open so I'd get a good look inside their heads.

Well, writers often read for instruction, and this book taught me a lot about conflict, internal and external, and its importance. For more on conflict, see the fabulous Intern's post from a few days ago.

Friday, January 1, 2010

The Very Comprehensive YA `09 Book Survey

OK, this thing is huge, but I had to participate. If you decide to dive in as well, leave your answers in the comment box or a link to your blog. All-righty, I'm going to try this even with a massive food hangover (Can you get iodine poisoning from eating too many crab legs? I think I came close last night...).


Most Imaginative: The Mortal Instruments series by Cassandra Clare
Funniest: The Spectacular Now by Tim Tharp
Scariest: Living Dead Girl by Elizabeth Scott
Edgiest Contemporary: Some Girls Are by Courtney Summers
Creepiest SF/Dystopia: The Hunger Games/Catching Fire
Best Love Story: Perfect Chemistry by Simone Elkeles


Most Hilarious: The yoga scene in My Big Nose and Other Natural Disasters (C'mon, farting is always funny!)
Scariest: Living Dead Girl. The whole book.
Most Disturbing: See above.
Steamiest: Ooooh, the de-virgination scene in Perfect Chemistry. Any scene between John and Meg in Going Too Far.
Most Exciting: All of Catching Fire.
Biggest Tear-Jerker: Everything that happens in the hotel room between Marcus Flutie and Jessica Darling in Perfect Fifths. I waited a loooong time for this...
Best (spoiler-free, now) Plot Twist/Revelation: Even though I was pretty confident about where it was going, the Jace/Clary are they? aren't they? plotline throughout the Mortal Instruments series kept me turning the pages to find out.


Best Couple: Jessica Darling and Marcus Flutie. Patch and Nora from Hush, Hush.
Who You'd Want as Your Best Friend: Ruby Jacinski from Ten Cents a Dance, Jessica Darling.
Who You Fell in Love With: Alex from Perfect Chemistry, John from Going Too Far, Nick from the Demon's Lexicon, and, of course, Marcus Flutie.
Worst Villian: The nasty mean girls in Some Girls Are.
Best Character Twist (Loved him/her, Hated him/her, Loved him/her again--or something like that): Uncle Macon in Beautiful Creatures, Alan in The Demon's Lexicon
Best Character Names: Tamsin from Once a Witch and Ruby Jacinski from Ten Cents a Dance
Worst Character Names: Peeta. Great character, awful name.
Favorite All-Around Kick-Ass Female: Katniss from The Hunger Games
Favorite All-Around Kick-Ass Male: Gale from The Hunger Games, and, in his own way, Liam from King of the Screwups, Jace from the Mortal Instruments.


Best Book Cover: I really like the retro flair of The ABCs of Kissing Boys.
Best Title: Going Bovine.
Most Memorable Voice: Sutter Keely in The Spectacular Now.
Most Memorable First Line: "There is a certain kind of girl the goblins crave." (Lips Touch Three Times)
Best Setting: New York City in the Mortal Instruments series.
Most Beautiful Writing: Sarah Dessen's writing in Along for the Ride.


Will Any of the YA Books You Read in 2009 Make Your Life List of Favorite Books?

The Hunger Games/Catching Fire. Definitely.

Thanks to Kody Keplinger for the template!