Friday, October 23, 2009

I Demonstrate the Inherent Power of Cher's "Heart of Stone"

Cher's "Heart of Stone" is probably one of the greatest songs to come out of 1989. It rocks. It aches. It rhymes. And it has tambourine. It has everything (no cowbell, but tambourine is as good as cowbell). I'm going to dissect it to prove how poignant it is:

Begins with an excellent acoustic guitar being strummed in a heartfelt manner.

Cher: "Beneath the white fire of the moon, loves wings are broken all too soon."

Obviously this sets up the story. The setting, if you will. The protagonist is clearly pondering the fate of her love beneath the full moon. It doesn't say it's a full moon. I'm taking literary license here. Usually a moon is full when someone thinks to remark about the amount of light its giving off. So, we have the moon and it's night and the wings of love have been broken. So we have a bird. No, no, not a bird; love, love is a bird. The bird of love has been grounded, thus the dream has been broken.

So the protagonist is regarding the landscape of the night, musing about the moon, and realizing the dream has been lost. It's a nice scene, established in two short lines. Good metaphors and such. Also, I really like that the moon has "white fire." That's fantastic crap right there.

Cher: "We never learn. [begin tambourine] Hurt together, hurt alone. Don't you sometimes wish your heart was a heart of stone?"

So there we have the age old lament that "we never learn." It's true. Humans are worse than animals when it comes to learning. We struggle. We have hope. We return to the former things, the things that have hurt us, because of hope. Nicely done, Cher. It's always good to fall back on proverbial sayings and whatnot when you're making a statement. Right? Because they're universal.

And then the protagonist goes on pondering, more lamentation, the lovers in the song "hurt together, hurt alone." Also very true. When love ends, does either party win? No, unless of course one of the parties is abusive and then the one abused wins, good job in that case. But typically, both parties lose because the entire universe conspires to break lovers apart, and that seems to be acknowledged here in that short line when coupled with the next line, which says, "Don't you sometimes wish your heart was a heart of stone?" The unspoken content of that line is that hearts are always being broken and if only (if only!) the heart could be made of stone, it couldn't be broken and break ups wouldn't hurt. Right?

Next we have the introduction of more instruments, always a powerful moment in a song. The pause, then the drums come in and the electric guitar, and bass. Fantastic. Who doesn't love this type of song-furniture?

Cher: "We turn the wheel and break the chain. Put steel to steel and laugh at pain. We're dreamers in castles, made of sand. the road to eden's overgrown. Don't you sometimes wish you're heart was made of stone."

Now what Cher is doing is giving us some concrete images. Applause. Why? Because concrete images are always a good choice. So we have a wheel, and a chain, some steel, and then the only abstraction in those two lines, PAIN. Abstract emotions are nearly always weak, so when Cher prepares us with some actual hard, cold images, we feel the meaning of pain. Pain is a broken chain (like on a bicycle), steel on steel, ooh that's cold. Then pain. But not just any pain. Pain you laugh at sarcastically, like, ha ha, Pain, think you can hurt me?

Then we get another hearty helping of very good metaphors. Sand castles. Roads to paradise overgrown and difficult to traverse, i.e., we're never going to make it, this is bull crap, why even try? That sort of thing. Works very well. Also, very sarcastic. As though to say, "What, you don't think love is worth it? Fine. Let me just mock what we had and by the way, I wish my heart was made of stone."

Fantastic. Just fantastic.

Then we have the chorus. It's an interesting chorus. Not your typical chorus. The first chorus has some interesting, not-boring drum fills and cymbal crashes.

Cher: "Look at the headlines: Big crowd at the crazy house, long queue for the joker's shoes, ten rounds in the ring with love, do you lose and win, oh, oh win and lose."

Ok, this part is very confusing. I'm not sure what the protagonist is trying to say here, except that only insane people put themselves through love, and if that's true, then bravo because it's VERY effective. VERY. I don't know what the deal is with "look at the headlines" and in any case, the newspaper reference is tired. But I do enjoy the "long queue for the joker's shoes" and the reference to the boxing match with love. Yes, that's good. We all get that because most of us have been pummeled by love enough to empathize with the reference.

Cher: "Sweet rain like mercy in the night (lay me down, wash away the sorrow) caress my soul and set it right (lay me down show me your tomorrow) summer tears, winter, and the moments flown, don't you sometimes wish your heart was made of stone. Mercy mercy wish your heart was a heart of stone."

Oh man. This part is probably the crowning bit of the song. In my opinion. Cher's voice changes when she moves into the line "sweet rain like mercy in the night," leaving the chorus behind, and it makes sense because suddenly the protagonist is singing about redemption ("caress my soul and set it right"). The rain has come and covered the moon (presumably), and then we have the backing chorus going on a baptism type theme, and the rest of Cher's lines are like a prayer, almost. The rest of the section is about moving on, "summer tears, winter, and the moments flown." Nice. It's always effective to bring in the seasons to represent the passage of time. Very good.

Cher: "Get the picture? No room for the innocent, peak season in lonely town, knocked out of the ring by love, are you down and up, or up and down?"

Good images. Much like the previous chorus, only this time it's referencing a brochure for a vacation trip, but the catch is, it's the off-season. No one wants to be in Jackson Hole or Sun Valley during the summer. Lonely town (unless of course you're there for the mountain biking, but that's easily ignored in my case). And instead of just being IN the ring with love, the protagonist has been knocked OUT of the ring. That was a killing blow, my friends.

Cher: "I ask the river for a sign, (in a dream, we go on together) well how long is love supposed to shine? (in a dream, diamonds are forever) but you and I, we hurt together, hurt alone! Don't you sometimes wish your heart was a heart of stone? Mercy mercy, wish your heart was a stone."

In this section Cher really belts it out. With emotion. It's loaded. She's the protagonist, it suddenly seems, she's truly looking to that river for a sign. I assume this river was always part of the song's landscape, and since she's just been baptized by the rain and a river, it makes sense that there's a river. And Cher sees that in a dream things could have been different, the lovers could have been together and the ring of promise (the diamond) actually kept the love true. But alas! The dream fades and the reality is that the relationship is over. They hurt at the same time and wish there was no pain.

Ahhhh, weak mortals. But without all that pain, songs as great as "Heart of Stone" wouldn't exist. And how gloomy a world would be without love songs, break up songs, and songs of redemption! I believe, my friends, that I've successfully proven my point, that "Heart of Stone" is an awesome song, full of excellent metaphors and imagery, and not only that, it's Cher! Cher! Of course, my words can hardly do it justice. You must listen to it to really feel the greatness. I'm particularly fond of the backing chorus during the redemption sections. Fabulous!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Infamous and Flying in Video Games

Infamous is a fantastic game. I became addicted immediately upon playing the demo. The reason? Like the levitation skill in Morrowind, the Infamous developers wisely gave the character Cole the ability to float using electricity. After I completed the demo, I had dreams I was Cole, floating down from the tops of buildings, some kind of guardian angel bringing justice in my wake, zapping the bad guys (known as Reapers and Dustmen), and resuscitating victims of the plague.

Not to complain, but Bethesda (the developer of Morrowind and Oblivion) was stupid to exclude the levitation skill when they created Oblivion, the sequel to Morrowind. Flying, floating, gliding, levitating -- these are magical abilities that no game should lack. As I marvel at my addiction to Infamous, and I observe the formation of an attachment to the new Batman game (which utilizes the Bat's ability to glide), I see a common thread. I feel no strange addictions to Oblivion (no levitating), yet the passion endures for Morrowind (levitation).

I understand it all now. Flying is the key. When Bethesda decided to scratch levitation from the list of skills for the incredibly forgetful world in Oblivion, they were essentially demoting the title from awesome to crapsome.

Man has dreamed of flight since his first glimpse of a bird taking to the sky. Do you remember your nightly dreams? If you do, which dreams are the best? Did you say flying dreams? I know you said flying dreams because those are the best dreams. They're about freedom, escape, joy, and power, and so much more. Even if everything else in your life sucks, when you have a dream about being able to fly, the most magical thing happens in your soul -- something to do with hope and not being constrained by earth and all its woes.

The caveat here is that the flying-type skill must be in direct defiance to gravity. It can't be out in space. It also has to be in human form, it can't be a man flying in a jet or anything of that nature. Because the dream isn't to be trapped in a jet or any other contraption (though I thank you Wright brothers), it's to be a person who can fly. Or float. Or levitate.

So anyway. That's the reason Oblivion, which could have been as awesome as Morrowind, failed to live up to its potential. It's why the new Batman game is next on my list, why Super Mario 3 was so amazing (the raccoon tail, remember?), and it's also why I had to buy Infamous immediately after playing the demo and having dreams about it.

The other night I was, of course, playing Infamous. I came to the quest where Cole must climb the tower of junk in the middle of the slum district with his friend Zeke. At this stage, the floating ability makes it possible to reach the highest platform, using a series of steel beams and discarded neon signs.

So as I was guiding Cole up the tower, Stoker was sitting next to me, watching, and I kept missing the last beam. I basically ran in circles enough to earn the Frequent Flyer Trophy (something for the online PS3 community) because I couldn't turn Cole to catch the beam just right. It was frustrating.

I probably went in circles ten or twelve times before I finally let Stoker take the controller to try it. He'd been watching, judging me to be an incompetent player I'm sure, thinking secretly (I'm sure), that he could do it--because that's what you do when you're watching someone else play a video game. You think, "Man are they an idiot? I could do it in like three seconds." Not that Stoker would EVER think me an idiot. But he was thinking, "I could do this. Piece of pie."

I gave him the controller and thought, "Good. Now he'll know how much skill it actually takes to master the floating ability and he'll have no choice but to admire me." I told him which buttons did what, and sat back to observe him as he failed to guide Cole to the top platform.

But he succeeded on his first try.

Now, you're probably thinking that I acted like a brat for being slightly humiliated--after all, Stoker hadn't played Infamous until that moment. I don't deny that I normally would have said something snide or excused my inability to accomplish this apparently easy feat with the complaint that my wrists were tired, or my thumb had started to hurt, or I had eye-fatigue. But I didn't do any of that, because you know what, sometimes it's cool to let other people be heroes.

Yes, I'm that great. I can let others feel that they're superior to me. But only because deep down, I KNOW that I'm the best.

Ha ha.

Stoker immediately gave the controller back to me, feeling very smug inside, I just know it. I said to him, "The floating ability is addicting, isn't it?"

And he said, "Yeah, it is." And there was a look of longing in his eyes to keep on floating. To glide down from incredibly high buildings, to grind across electrical wires between buildings and launch into the sky like a bird, and skate over monorail tracks like a human rail car. Oh yes. It's a great feeling.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Climate Change Is Good But Rackets Bother Me.

Been awhile.

Things have been hectic. That's no excuse, I know, I know.

Summer's nearly over. I'm glad about that. Nashville is no place for summer. July wasn't so bad, because it was cool most of the month and it rained nearly every day. Thank goodness for that "cool Canadian air mass" that settled over the south. I'm pro-climate change if it's going to turn the south Mediterranean or Canadian or whatever.

I was about to write about this racket I've observed in Nashville, but then I thought better of it. I was about to expose an injustice, but it's only an injustice in my eyes I'm sure, and let's be honest, I'm no crusader. I'm always on the verge of being a crusader, but then I either get too lazy or too wise, I don't know which. I haven't the endurance to be a real crusader. I always fizzle.

But, boy, do rackets bother me.

P.S. I promise not to leave you for four months again.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Why Make Men Work for a Look? Just Give Them the Summer Dress and End the Charade.

My friends, you can't believe how ecstatic I am to have summer dress season upon us. Already the girls are wearing them, strolling down streets with their breasts spilling out of the spaghetti strap nightmares. Every step they take nearly graces other passerbys with butt cheeks or more. Why even wear a dress at all? I ask you. Why not simply wear bra and underwear? Why not go a step further and simply take the mystery out of it and go nude?

What is the point of clothes, I wonder. It's simply an imagined commandment from a non-existent God (as we've begun to discover, after all). To paraphrase: and God fashioned clothes for them out of animal skins. See, it's been forced upon us by a figurative Creator. There's no reason for us to wear clothes. We are all enlightened enough by now to realize that the beauty and art of the human form should be shared and adored by everyone. It's simply a left over, prudish, Victorian edict that we cover ourselves. We're beyond that now. We now see how unhealthy the Victorian perspective was, how it perverted values and turned out a population of warped individuals who somehow naively believed that each person influenced society by their actions.

We've arrived, my friend. Here we are, in the modern century, where we now know that each man (and woman, let us not forget) IS an island. The ancients, the poets, the great thinkers of those backwards generations had it all wrong. What I do has no bearing on anyone else. If a woman wants to wear a thong and a bra as her daily attire, no one should raise a voice against her. I mean, who does that hurt? Really?

In fact, the other day I went shopping for some new lingerie because I'M going to really give the fashion world a shake. Remember the episode of Seinfield with the bra-less wonder? When Elaine gives Cindy Whoever a bra as a present and she wears it as a top? That's where I'm going. I've got the body for it, why not? I mean, I never feel so valued as when men ogle me. I love nothing more than to walk into a room and have every head turn and give me the once or twice over. It makes me feel so powerful.

Married men, old men, fathers with daughters, my own father, priests, gay men, I want them all to want me. Why stop there? I want all the women to want me too. There are no boundaries when it comes to sex appeal.

The truly enlightened individual does not need clothes out in the world. Society. Family. Self-respect. Any respect. None of these are required for true happiness. So let us unravel each of them.

Friday, April 03, 2009

A Narrow Miss

Some people on Facebook were teasing me about hiding in the basement when the tornado sirens are going. And I admit it, I felt a little silly. But later on, when I was watching the news, I saw that a tornado had touched down uncomfortably close to my neighborhood.

I'm posting this here to show just HOW close. I've blacked out all the street names for my protection (of course). It took me hours to do this because I don't know much about Photoshop. I thought a funny and clever thing to do would be to change everything to Candyland names, but that would have taken me days to figure out, so forget about it.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Classics: App Heaven

So far, the best app (I feel like such a dork when I say that) I've downloaded is the Classics app. When I bought it, it was .99 cents. What a bargain. Like ten books for .99 cents! They're classics, so, I mean if you found copies of them at a used book store you could probably get some of them for that much, but I'm talking about portability here.

My favorite author just did a review of the Kindle on his website, and it tempted me. But really there's no contest now. I have an Ipod Touch and I can put books on there! Smaller, more portable, and it makes a cool page turny sound when you turn the page BY TOUCHING THE SCREEN. And you turn back the page by swiping your screen in the other direction!

I am still in love with the magic of the touch screen, yes. It's very enthralling. I'm sorry, but that's the truth of it.

When you're done reading and you press the home button, it puts in a bookmark and then you go back to your bookshelf and there's your book, with a little red bookmark in it. It's beautiful.

I know it's weird to get excited about a virtual bookshelf and a program that disconnects me from the actual textures and sense of reading a book, because I'm very into the reality of books. But it's fun. It's different. And I have real copies of most of the books. But think of it. I'm on a long flight and I don't want to tote around ten books. Oh, look here, in my Ipod I have twelve books!

And I think they add more, and the additions are FREE once you've bought the app. I'm in heaven.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

I Was Lying When I Said Agency Wars Is Cool Game

Can I take back everything I said about Agency Wars? I take it back. What a rip! The game is worse than a "Choose Your Own Adventure" novel.

Let me explain why I now loathe it. I upgraded to the 250 version (this has to do with reward points. If you do that, you can buy a very powerful gun -- you need the gun because if you don't have it, you continuously get robbed and never make any money), but I accidentally hit the WRONG button on my Ipod and ended up with TWO of the same gun! (Because I got the gun that only cost 100 reward points, dumb choice I know). What's the good of two of the same gun*?!! AND I CAN'T SELL IT! So much for "superb in-game economics" or whatever their line is on their dumb App page. Also, you have the option of "buying a passport" when you travel so you don't "get assassinated."** These passports aren't cheap. I buy them. But I still get assassinated. Nice work. Jerks.

There you have it.

Enough about mind-numbing role-playing games***. For my birthday I bought all five of the Chronicles of Prydain. I was worried that I had been silly when I first read them and would find them lacking, like I sort of did with the David Eddings series the Belgariad when I tried to reread it during college. I began reading The Book of Three today (the first book in Prydain) and I am not disappointed. Maybe all those years studying English lit. have worn off and I am back to my normal self who can enjoy a good story. Ha ha. Sad, isn't it? How college can taint your world view and socialize you to be a cultural elitist with snobby opinions that are direct reflections of the opinions held by your professors?

I'm kidding, of course.

No, I'm kidding that I'm kidding. I want to go back for my PhD, but I fear that if I do, I'll be suffocated by the stupidity surrounding me.

*In the context of the game, two of the same gun is pointless. In real life, two of the same gun might be nice. I might like to have two AR-15s or two AK-47s or even TWO 1911s. But in this game, it's redundant and useless and even MORE of a waste of real life money than if I hadn't made a mistake and bought the more powerful of the high damage guns.
**Overuse of "scare" quotes intentional to illustrate irritation about game company's lies.
***Here's a question: why do I even WANT to play those games when I have a PS3? Or a computer and can play Guild Wars? I'm sick, that's what I am. Sick!

Monday, March 30, 2009

Agency Wars. M16 Agent #78930. Shaken, Not Stirred.

Stoker told me last week he'd gotten a little something for my birthday and asked me to not look at the bank account. I thought, Ok, he's gotten me a book, or a video game, or tickets to the soccer game. Because it was a little something.

So the little something he gave me last Friday turned out to be an Ipod Touch. Excellent present and I haven't been able to stop caressing it and downloading apps and playing games on it. We're Verizon users and will never switch to AT&T and thus the Iphone is useless to me. But the Touch works for us. Stoker has one as well.

I'm addicted to Agency Wars.

It's a role playing game where you pick an agency, CIA, M16, KGB or one from a variety of others that I'd never heard of until yesterday, and then you go on missions for the agency. You earn money and buy weapons and sell weapons to other real life players. If you have the Iphone, you can apparently go to real time locations for missions--I assume it's all legal and whatnot ha ha ha. I played it for too many hours yesterday and I'm embarrassed about it, and all I have to show for it is that I'm a level 13.

One of the first things I did was try to attack Jungmaster, a level twenty million or something. As you can probably imagine, there was really no contest. He had some outrageous gun and I think I only had a measly handgun or something (in the game guns are one-offs, like a WaltheN PPK). Jungmaster won the fight and then of course he had to turn around and teach me a lesson by actually KILLING me. And it did teach me a lesson. Thereafter I only attacked other agents who were a level or two below me. Unfair, but I need the money and experience in order to rise in the ranks (new goal, reach level 30 million and kill Jungmaster).

It's not personal, it's business.

Others have attacked me and some of them have won. But I add them to my hitlist and if I ever surpass them in weaponry or by leveling, I get my revenge. Oh yes, I get revenge, my friend.

The interface of the game resembles one of those blue screen type programs you always see in detective/FBI/24 type shows. I doubt the real-life databases look like that (who knows?), but it lends an air of sophistication to the game despite reality, and in some ridiculous, romantic part of your brain, you feel like you COULD be a government spy engaging in espionage and other James Bond tom-foolery without actually being in danger. So you get all the good part of the fantasy sans the threat of death or torture. In short, I feel that the game rocks.

Yes. All morning I've been devising a way to get to a free WiFi location so I can check on my status. It seems that while offline, others can attack your agent and steal your money (JERKS!). What comes around goes around. Anyone who messes with me will be dealt with, I assure you.

On a different note, my main criticism is that their server kicks me off quite often. I could forgive this if the game was free (like Guild Wars), but since the full game is not free, I can't forgive it. Another improvement would be to enhance the in-game selling feature. To sell to other players, you simply list your price then the item disappears from your inventory. If the item is ever sold, the amount appears in your account. But you never hear for sure, and since you're constantly making money, it's hard to be certain if you've ever sold the item.

Anyway, as you can see the game is quite enthralling. For me anyway.

Add me (other agents know what that means. If you're not already an agent, become one and add me)*.

*What it means is that in the game, to do certain harder missions, you have to have a number of contacts. It's hard to make contacts because for some ridiculous reason, you can only add them with the agent number (or some other intrusive way like with an email address). Basically you have to go online and advertise your agent number in some way. So get the game and add me. And then we can do joint missions. Cassi, this means you.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Looking for a Scene from Superman, I Find Death Cab for Cutie

I was thinking of downloading "Can You Read My Mind" because I'm almost 31 and old people such as myself like that kind of song, even though as a child we ridiculed it. But I agree. I mean, I'd wonder if Superman could read my mind too.

I wanted to watch the scene when Superman tells Lois that he has X-Ray vision because it seems like he tells Lois she's wearing pink underwear, but maybe I'm making that up. And I've always thought it ridiculous that Lois would wear pink underwear, if indeed it's true. Only dorks wear pink underwear. Pink is the worst color in the world unless it is part of the sunset, the sunrise, or in a flower (including blossoms). And I will sometimes make exceptions for really masculine men wearing pink, just because I find the contradiction appealing.

All I could find was this cool video. And I admit it, it gave me chills. Good love stories are enduring, right? I mean Superman gives up his powers to be with the woman he loves. You can't not let yourself be a little bit melted to think of that kind of sacrifice. Love is only gorgeous when it has made sacrifices. Indulgent love, love that has compromised its values for itself is hideous. I guess in that case it's not really love because real love IS sacrifice.

Anyway, this video was cool. I've no idea the true author, thanks to the endless chain of youtube copycats, but whoever did the editing made sure it was beautiful.

Monday, March 09, 2009

Recently Read: Posts from Goodreads Reviews "Chekhov: Selected Stories"

There's something about Chekhov. I remember reading a review or an essay about him in The New Yorker a long time ago, back when I read the New Yorker (I don't anymore, pretentious jerks ha ha ha), and I remember finding it interesting. But I assumed that Chekhov would be a stuffy old bookish writer whose work I would find boring. And then I began reading, recently, some of Anna Karenina. Some sort of fever started in me to consume as much Russian literature as possible. So I bought this small used copy of Chekhov's work, the very edition you see here. The first story I read was "The Father." I read it quickly and then I read another story, "Peasants," and I was enthralled by his writing and the portrayals of the Russian people. He has such skill with language and my only regret is that I can't read his work in the original Russian.

At the same time I read A Moveable Feast by Hemingway (an amazing book), and I was very pleased to read his impressions of the Russians. He said of Chekhov that people had told him that Katherine Mansfield wrote great short stories, but once he had read Chekhov, Hemingway realized that Mansfield's stories were the equivalent of an old maid's tales (to recall from memory). One man's opinion. I have not read much Mansfield, but I can say that Chekhov is so widely read for a reason. I love his writing and have bought many more collections of his writing since then.

I'm not a huge fan of the short story genre, necessarily. But if you read his work it feels loosely strung together, a vast mural of the late 19th century Russia. It's quite beautiful.

My favorites so far are "Peasants," "He Understood," "The Dance Pianist,"In Exile," and "A Cure for Drinking."

Recently Read: Posts from Goodreads Reviews "One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich"

I loved it, even though I didn't give it five stars. I didn't give it five because at the end I wasn't blown away or something. The end just comes kind of natural like you'd expect, because it's the end of the day. And you know that Ivan is kind of like an animal now, and all he has are days and he doesn't think too hard about the future because if he did, he would go crazy. I've heard that Gulag is a very depressing story, this one is kind of a downer, but not like Gulag, probably. You end up loving Ivan because even amidst this horrible, completely undeserved sentence, he still has a heart and exhibits altruistic behavior.

Sometimes Solzhenitsyn's writing reminds me of Salinger, and I liked that. At times he would speak from this place of "the prisoners, the men" and show their rage at other prisoners who were messing things up for everyone else, or their rage at the injustice and stupidity of the warders. All you can think through the whole book is about how cold it is. Obviously the cold is a strong character, the main element shaping their lives, even stronger than the bastard communist government.

There were loads of things I liked about this story. I like Solzhenitsyn's writing style, although I have to admit I feel weird saying that, knowing he himself was a prisoner and this book was derived from that experience. But it's true, he's a good writer. I ended up liking Ivan, and pretty much all the characters except for Fetyukov, who we're not supposed to like because he's a vulture and a wimp.

I will probably read more of his books because of his skill with words. My big regret is that I can't read Russian and of all possible languages I would choose to learn for the sake of literature, Russian is the language I want to know. I checked it out and Rosetta Stone costs like a million dollars. I'm 30 and my brain is set in stone. Is there any hope?

Recently Read: Posts from Goodreads Reviews "Name of the Wind"

Finished on February 20th:

Very good. I had some criticism but it was minor and based on having studied folklore for my post-grad work. The author does a good job of weaving a story and utilizing language better than most contemporary writers. I liked his style and look forward to the next book.

March 3rd: I have to amend this review. This update comes almost two weeks later. I am still thinking about that blasted Kvothe and what's happened to him. I am planning a way to obtain the next book and read it as quickly as possible. I am making sure my reading schedule will fit it in, still knowing deep inside that all other books shall be set aside to continue the story. I have gone to the author's personal website and read some of his blog entries just to feel like I've somehow been in contact with the world of Kvothe.

p.s. Ordered a first edition hardbound copy, planning to someday meet author at a book signing. Hoping.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Recent Aquisition: The Selected Letters of Wallace Stegner

I picked up Stegner's Selected Letters yesterday. It was an urgent thing, because while this book has been in my Amazon shopping cart since l became aware it was out, I never felt rushed to get it until I saw that some doofus had left a ONE STAR REVIEW of it on recently. What kind of moron . . . . ? His reason is that he realized his fictional* college students are RIGHT, Stegner is an elitist snob. And then the doofus goes on to crack a joke, I guess, and mention that he supposes he should read Elizabeth Lynn-Cook's book Why I Can't Read Wallace Stegner: A Tribal Voice**.

Obviously I am forced to quickly come to his defense, not that he needs it. His work speaks for itself. He IS not an elitist snob. What is going on is that colleges are now swarming with students who think that being politically correct is proper and that no one should actually speak their mind if it goes against the fashionable current of thought. If a writer uses a word these students haven't heard on Prison Break or American Idol, that writer is clearly not interested in being understood. While I think it's true that some contemporary writers reach for the thesaurus too often and pick the obscure WRONG word rather than the right common word, this is just not the case for Stegner. His writing IS accessible and he is as clear as day. His writing is careful and thoughtful and he creates characters who are real and flawed, though ultimately good.

So far I have read his personal letters, the letters to his girlfriend before Mary Page and the letters to Mary Page (who he would marry). Some good lines from it:

"I am afraid you are a romantic, my love. I am afraid you live in the clouds, and in the future—an impossible future, and I am afraid you are one of these essentially skinless creatures whom every blowing cinder hurts. So am I, or was I. Then I developed a suit of armor, and then you came and undressed me again. I’m not sure that I mind, even on principle. I know that at present I love it, but I’m afraid when I think that both of us are going to get hurt" (p. 21).

And I read this in a letter to biographer Jackson Benson regarding his request to do a biography of Stegner:

"There is the further fact that I have led a very quiet life. I have no marital upheavals, spectacular alcoholism, sexual deviations, madcap adventures, or attempted suicides to report. You might find that even if I told you to go ahead, you would have little to write about. Actually, what I have meant, to myself and I hope to others, is an individual attempt to understand and come to terms with a dynamic, forming, and unstable society, that of the American West" (p. 75).

I like it that he regards his life as quiet and that he is humble about it. He's not thirsting to have someone write about him because he was modest. He recognized that having written novels put him in a kind of spotlight, and so he was something of a public figure, but he wasn't the kind of public figure that relished the limelight.

His son Page writes this about him:

"His letters were not notes dashed off in the rapid-fire, shorthand fashion of today's email. Virtually without exception they were thoughtful, articulate, and carefully crafted, with attention to minutia (spelling, punctuation, syntax); they employed simile, metaphor, poetic imagery, deliberation of voice, and, above all, attention to the melody of language. . . . Like the company accountant in Conrad's Heart of Darkness, he would have been embarrassed to be found wandering about dressed in anything but an immaculate white suit, no matter how remote the exposure to posterity or the likely indifference of his audience" (ix).

The reviewer on who got me all fired up, whose thoughtless review compelled me to rush out and buy the book, wondered why he cared about Stegner after reading half the book. I guess he didn't get it, but I do. Stegner wasn't an elitist snob. Rather, he cared about his words and how he used them. His writing was his way of making sense of the world, of trying to understand and be understood, but in composing his work he wasn't immodest. He had Victorian values to a degree and recognized that one doesn't have to confess every impropriety to be transparent***, and I think this is evident in Angle of Repose when the narrator discusses his disgust about the loose values and hedonism of the 1960s.

Anyway, I know I'm going to give it five stars when I'm done. Stegner was right about his life, he wasn't some spineless, self-absorbed writer whose biographies would reveal a string of affairs and a drug-riddled past interlaced with deviant behavior. He has always struck me as humble, but willing to do hard work and get done what had to be done. And in that way, because these qualities show up in it, his work has always been refreshing and beautiful.

*My assumption. I don't know if they really ARE fictional, but the idiot struck me as too moronic to actually be a college professor. Perhaps they're stocking the colleges with morons these days.
**Both Kirkus Reviews and Publisher's Weekly slam this collection of essays. First of all, Ms. Lynn-Cook truly has NEVER read Stegner. She uses his name to simultaneously capitalize on his success and bludgeon him in one breath. What a girl.
***Contemporary style is to confess everything, resulting in graphic depictions of sex, violence, drug-use and every other kind of depravity that does not necessarily move the plot forward or lead to a deeper understanding of character.

Yeah, Like I'm Going to Post P90X Results Here

My P90X dvds came yesterday, finally. I bought them from a seller on ebay and was a little worried I had been scammed or something. But no, "product was as described." Shipping slow. Very slow.

I think I will start on it next week. First I have to "get my kitchen ready" as the supplemental material suggests. Also I need a decent pull up bar. I bought the Iron Gym from Target last week and it doesn't fit around any of my doorways. They're enormous, you see, because I live in an old house. Pretty lame that they didn't make it adjustable. So I returned it to Target. I hope Target sends it back to the manufacturer and the manufacturer begins to get the message. One can only hope.

I bought about a million dumbbells and the thing about that is, when you're buying a twenty pound weight for twenty five dollars, all you can think is, "I'm paying money for weight. Weight! The object is nothing but weight." For some reason, it seems so indulgent. What a statement of the advancement of our civilization that people will actually spend money on WEIGHT*. I mean, sixty years ago my grandmother would have been ashamed to hear about someone throwing their money away on weight. But back then you worked hard for things, and unlike me she didn't sit around all day in a tiny cubicle reading for a living, cut off from the land. She was out in it, with the sun on her face, planting her garden. Ok, yes, I totally romanticize the hell out of my grandma. And yes, I would love to have a homestead and not work in an office. I love my job though. I really do. The days fly by and what more can you ask?

And by the way, I heard through the grapevine that my younger sister went to visit my grandma, who is sort of on her last leg, and my sister told Grams that they were going to name their baby (due end of this month) after Grams' mother. And Grams said, "That's cute as hell." Or she may have said, "Hell that's cute." The person telling me the story couldn't remember perfectly. But is that cute as hell? Grams says the cutest things. If you knew her you'd understand better why it's so cute. This grandma of mine isn't your sailor-mouthed, chain-smoking, somewhat frightening grandma. You know the kind. The kind that scares you with their tiny vicious mouth and wrinkled tattoos and husky voice. My grandma is pretty gentle and happy, and she has this laugh that sounds like bells and sunlight. She usually has a smile on her face and she's small, but strong. So when she says, "Hell that's cute," the contrast is fantastic and therefore adorable. Well, I miss her.

Next month: Before and after shots of P90X results.

*This topic is very similar to my recent experience and enlightenment about such things as "We pay cash for gold. Bring in your old jewelry and we'll PAY YOU for it!" I will relate that story another time.