Archive | December, 2011

READING: The Dive From Clausen’s Pier

27 Dec

Reading: The Dive From Clausen’s Pier by Ann Packer

Why you should read it: Theme

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I’m a very avid reader, though I do suffer from the go-go-go mentality of the rest of nation/world, meaning I don’t take as much time as I should to enjoy the things I like, such as reading. However, now that I’m older and looking toward a career that is centered around writing, I’m taking time to go back and look at old favorites and figure out what it was about them that made me so attracted to writing in the first place.

I read Packer’s The Dive From Clausen’s Pier when I was a senior in high school, so not so very long ago. I’ve probably read it four or five times since then, and it’s time to revisit it again. The book is about Carrie, a young woman who recently graduated college. She’s been with her boyfriend, Mike, since they were high school students. As the novel begins, Carrie laments about how stuck she feels. She’s been with the same man, had the same friends and been in Madison, Wisconsin for years. What’s worse is she and Mike are engaged, but she’s not sure she even loves him anymore.

She, Mike and their friends go to Clausen’s Pier Memorial Day weekend. Mike dives off the pier and suffers a terrible neck and spine injury, and becomes quadriplegic. For a while Mike and Carrie pretend they don’t know their relationship has come to an end. Carrie struggles to stay by Mike’s side, not because of his injury, but because what was between them has faded. Carrie throws herself into anything else: her sewing, her work, her mother, as long as it keeps her away from Mike.

After running into a friend from high school, Simon, who now lives in New York City, Carrie gets in her car, and heads for New York too, without a warning word for anyone—including Mike. Carrie’s fresh start awards her with new friends, new places—and a whole new life. Including a mysterious and enigmatic lover, Kilroy.

Carrie dances between Kilroy and Mike, New York and Madison, and tries to find herself along the way. Her guilt keeps telling her to go back, but her freedoms and her love for the city keep telling her to stay. I won’t say here what Carrie ultimately does, but Packer weaves a wonderful tale to get her there.

I think this is an appropriate time to think about this book, or at least is for me. With a new year beginning soon, and another behind us, this is always the time people start thinking about how they’d like to change (coughNew-Year’s-Resolutionscough), and that’s what The Dive from Clausen’s Pier is, thematically. It’s all about change, and Packer writes perfectly about all that encompasses change—how it’s terrifying and exhilarating and thrilling all at once.

I often think of this book and Carrie’s journey along with this quote by William James: “To change one’s life: Start immediately. Do it flamboyantly. No exceptions.” What’s great about The Dive From Clausen’s Pier is that Carrie does just that. I’m not saying that she’s right. And I’m not saying that she’s wrong. I’m just saying that Packer paints a picture of someone choosing their own life, and she does it deftly.

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WATCHING: Christmas Movies

22 Dec

Watching: Christmas Movies

Why you should be watching: Why not?

I cannot tell a lie: I’m not that into Christmas movies, I’m really not. And Christmas music is even worse. Ugh. I’m no Scrooge or anything, and I do love the warm, sweet buzz that the holiday season brings, but lets face it: Christmas-themed music and movies our shoved at us two weeks before Thanksgiving, and they just don’t let up until January first, when everyone’s holiday letdown sets in. But still, I love some Christmas movies anyway. They aren’t always good. Most of the time, they’re corny, schmaltzy, and hackneyed. But hey, someone keeps writing them, we keep watching them, and they’re a nice break from the department store. Check out these five Christmas movies—have a marathon! (And, if you still have a gift or two to snag, anyone of these would make a good one!)

 

  1. Black Christmas (1974, 2006)

(2006 Poster, Photo Credit)

It really doesn’t matter which version you see, because both are pretty good, though if I had to say, go for the 1974 version first, but you’ll be pretty happy with the 2006 version too. It’s like this: there’s a sorority house. And killing ensues. Blood, guts and gore. All with nice Christmas ambiance, and even nifty, Christmas-y ways to die.

Give this one to: Your friends. Chances are they won’t mind the gore so much, and the twist on what we think of as Christmas movies will be fun for all of you.

 

4. Christmas with the Kranks (2004)

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Tim Allen and Jamie Lee Curtis star as Luther and Nora Krank, respectively. Because they’re daughter has just left for Peru with the Peace Corp, Luther and Nora have no desire to spend the holiday season without her. So, instead they decide to take the money they would have spent on presents and a party and the like, and go on a cruise. However, when they announce to friends, neighbors and co-workers that they’re leaving, everyone is outraged. What worse is that, as they’re headed out for their trip, their daughter, Blair announces that she’s on the way home with her fiance (!). The Kranks have to throw together a Christmas party before Blair gets home. Even though you know where the movie is headed from the start, it doesn’t make it any less fun.

Give this one to: Your parents. Wherever you are in life, they love you so much, they’d give up a ten-day cruise to the Caribbean for you.

 

  1. Elf (2003)

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Let me put it this way, I started typing the title, and began chuckling to myself. Elf is just plain funny, and genuinely heartwarming to boot. Will Ferrel stars as Buddy the elf, who accidently ends up being raised in the North Pole. Because of his height and because he makes shoddy toys, the other elves discern that he mus be human, and Buddy overhears them. He leaves for New York where is father, Walter, who is unaware of his existence lives and works at children’s book publishing company. Though his father initially rejects him, through a series of misadventures, Buddy is able to work his way into hearts everywhere, and spread the truth and joy of Santa Clause to people all over New York.

Give this one to: Your kids/nieces and nephews/little cousins. Elf is family-friendly, reinforces belief in Santa and the power of family. And Will Ferrell in those tiny elf clothes sets even grown men to giggling.

 

  1. The Family Stone (2005)

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This dramedy features several well-known names in its ensemble cast like, Sarah Jessica Parker, Diane Keaton, Craig T. Nelson, Luke Wilson, Claire Danes and Rachel McAdams. Though seeing too many big names together can get a little New Year’s Eve-ish, this cast does a really great job of letting you forget who they are, and focusing on the story. Dermot Mulroney is Everett Stone, the eldest son of Sybil (Keaton) and Kelly (Nelson). He’s bringing his straight-laced, uptight girlfriend, Meredith (Parker), home for the holidays. The Stones all have issues with their lives and with each other, so bringing each other together for the holiday’s is bound to be a disaster, it is, just in the way you would expect—there’s screaming and fighting, but also some healing, and all families could use a little of that.

Give this one to: Your sister, or best gal pal. Hopefully, she’ll enjoy the family dynamics, and it’s great to see so many amazing female actresses gathered in one place.

 

1. A Christmas Story (1983)

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Ralphie Parker is nine years old, and all he wants for Christmas is a Red Ryder BB Gun. I couldn’t even begin to cover all of the crummy things that happen to Ralphie during the holiday season, but they are plentiful and hilarious. Ralphie is just a kid, trying to survive until Christmas when he finally gets to unwrap his presents but bullies and teachers and parents all get in the way. You’ll spend the whole movie hoping with all your might that Ralphie actually gets his little BB Gun, but wondering all the while if it’ll happen. Just watch it, with everyone you know. Repeatedly.

Give this one to: Everyone, but most specifically, your boyfriend/husband or your brother. Chances are, he’ll see a little of himself in Ralphie.

What do you think? Are my Christmas favorites great, or did I miss the mark? What are your Christmas classics? Let me know!

READING: Johnathan Stutzman

20 Dec

Reading: poetry by Jonathan Stutzman
Why you should be reading: Imagery

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The above is the poem “antidepressant,” by poet Jonathan Stutzman, and one of my very favorites of the selection. I started following Stutzman on Tumblr at thedustdancestoo over the summer and I am never disappointed. His poems almost always seem to reflect brief moments in time, capturing a slice of senses and emotions at the same time. Below is “in fine,” a longer, but no less wonderful poem.

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These are more recent but thedustdancestoo has been going strong since December of 2009, and there is a lot there to offer. Stutzman’s poetry has a way of boiling down a moment to its most intense and truest emotions. The poetry is extremely readable and equally relatable, so you should really go read some. Like, right now. Seriously.

If you’re as moved by Stutzman’s poetry as I am, you should check out his recently released book, empty, now on sale! It’s on my Christmas list for sure!

If you’re as into Stutzman’s stuff as I am, leave a comment!

WATCHING: Suburgatory

15 Dec

Watching: Suburgatory
Why you should be watching: Culture, Comedy, Genre-Blending

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I promised myself I was going to do this week’s watching post about a movie, but I couldn’t resist. I’ve become so addicted to Suburgatory. Created Emily Kapnek, ABC’s fledgling sitcom has me cracking up. Every week. I thought it would be funny based on the trailer, but it surpassed my expectations.

The show chronicles the adventures of Tessa (Jane Levy) a fifteen-year-old high schooler who is uprooted from Manhattan, and moved to the fictional affluent suburb, by her father, George, played by Jeremy Sisto (who you may remember as Elton from Clueless!!). After finding a box of condoms in Tessa’s room, single dad George decided its time for a change.

Neither one of them knew exactly what they were getting into.


Culture

Everyone and everything is Chatswin is expected to fall into one mold, so much so that it’s almost like the town and everyone in it is one giant organism. Everyone drives the same kind of car, wears the same kinds of clothes, and has similar homes. Parents are obsessed with staying young and hot, and depending on who they are, they want to either be the cool parents, or the best, or some fusion of both.

The point is, once the writer’s immerse you in the Red Bull-swilling, perfect-lawn-having, country-club -going culture of Chatswin, you are there. Sure, the writers play on stereotypes and draw on other works (The Stepford Wives, Mean Girls) but even when you know what kind of people to expect in Chatswin, you never know what’s going to happen, especially as square-peg Tessa struggles to forge a life for herself in this round-hole world.

Comedy

There are lots of different types of comedy, and different types work for different people. For example, I really love the quick-paced, super-witty comedic style of Gilmore Girls, but sometimes I enjoy the darker, bleaker kind of comedy like you might find in It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. And Suburgatory doesn’t exactly fit into either of those. Suburgatory relies on timing, great one-liners and and the wonderful thing that is that feeling you get when you’re like: “Did she really just say that?”

The entire cast is brilliant, whether they get to crack the jokes, or play the straight man. Cheryl Hines plays the sweet, if silly Dallas, mother to high school queen bee Dahlia. And she is seriously wonderful. Then there’s crazy-stupid Dahlia (Carly Chaikin, of The Last Song) herself. Check out these two in the clips below.

Genre-Blending

Lastly, Suburgatory does what any great show/movie/book does. The writers do a really great job of blending genres. Just as you’re cracking up, the show slides right into a sweet moment. It’s emotional without being schmaltzy, and funny without being over the top. It’s clear that George and Tessa love one another, though they may struggle with forging along without Tessa’s rarely-mentioned mother.

In the first episode, Dallas takes Tessa shopping so that she can better assimilate to life in Chatswin. She walks on her in the changing room to see Tessa in this God-awful very functional sports bra. At the end of the episode, she brings her a lacy pink bra, simply because she knows Tessa doesn’t have anyone else in her life to do it for her. That Dallas can go from saying things like “Oh, I don’t eat in public,” to bringing Tessa’s favorite band to her sixteenth birthday party, really highlights that the show and its writers are paying attention to life, not just genre.

BONUS: If you haven’t been watching, you’ll love Tessa. She’s feisty, funny and bold!

So what do you think? Do you watch Suburgatory? Do you crack up every week? Plan on waching it now? Let me know!

Pretty Little Liars: We Find Out Who “A” Is!

14 Dec

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I’ve talked about my love for Pretty Little Liars in the past, and my fervor hasn’t fizzled out. In fact, the fire has just been flamed! Earlier today, in an article from Entertainment Weekly (and in many tweets from cast and crew of PLL, in particular, I. Marlene King, @imarleneking, executive producer) it was revealed that at the end of season two, we will get to see who “A” is! If you’re like me, you’re wondering how can this be! You may also have spent half and hour theorizing with your mom or best friend or anyone who would listen. Check out the original article for details!

Need someone to chat with about the upcoming mystery? Can’t wait for Season Two, part two? Drop a comment or shoot me an email, I want to know your best bet for “A.”

INSPIRATION: December Playlist (You Know You Love Dean Martin)

14 Dec

Track listing:

My apologies if you’re not that into Drake. Personally, I CAN NOT stop listening to Take Care. “Baby It’s Cold Outside,” has been including simply because it is the very best of cold-weather songs. Please do not argue with me on this one. I’m right. But if you just have to contest it, drop me a comment!

You can listen to the playlist in its entirety HERE.

READING: The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman

13 Dec

Reading: “The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman
Why you should be reading: Perspective

(Photo Credit)

Last week I covered The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway, which I adored on a couple levels, but most importantly, the book really made me take a look at the masculine perspective in literature, which I’d really been lacking in my literary experience.

This week, I’m covering a classic in the female perspective. In a similar experience to mine with The Sun Also Rises, I’ve had a couple of male friends who’ve claimed they saw new insight into the female mind after reading “The Yellow Wallpaper.”

Considered a staple of feminist literature, the novel is told in epistolary format, of journal entries. It tells the story of the unnamed narrator, who had recently had a child, and is suffering from some mental issues. Modern medicine tells us, she’s suffering from postpartum depression, though at the time, women were considered more fragile, and thought to be prone to vague and mysterious mental and physical conditions.

Her husband, a doctor, prescribes her with treatment. To be locked in a room in their new home. Indefinitely. He controls whether or not she can leave the house, who she can speak with, and even whether or not she can write in the journal.

As time goes on, she becomes obsessed with the yellow wallpaper in her room. She is desperate to release the women who are stuck behind the pattern. Yes, in short, she looses her ever-loving mind. In the end, the woman (spoiler alert) is found walking the room, rubbing her shoulder up against the wall as she circuits the room. She has done this so many times, the wallpaper has actually blurred.

I was actually so stunned and creeped out when I read this, my reaction was just something like THIS.

I’m not the only person I know who was really changed by “The Yellow Wallpaper.” Lots of men I’ve met were just as creeped out and disturbed as I was. It was an awakening to the female perspective in literature, and that’s why everyone should read it. Especially if you like to be creeped-out. I shudder just thinking about it.

 

What do you think? Have you read it? Do you think it’s creepy? Have you read literature that gave yo a similar awakening of some kind? Let me know!

 

 

READING: The Sun Also Rises

6 Dec

Reading: The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway
Why you should read it: Perspective

(Photo Credit)

As a young woman and both a writer and avid reader, I’ve been exposed to little literature with a strong theme of masculinity. For most of my high school experience, whenever there was any intense focus on gender perspective, it was usually the female perspective. I’ve read a lot of the classics, and a lot of them do touch on both, but—though I didn’t realize it then—the male perspective wasn’t as prominent in discussion and assignment. When I read for fun, my tastes ran toward typically female-dominated genres like romance and YA literature, and though there are men who write both, I didn’t usually pick up books with a strong, male protagonist. As a woman, I wanted to read about women, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

When I was assigned The Sun Also Rises in college, I was in for the intensely masculine experience of protagonist, Jake Barnes. Up until then, my experience with Hemingway was limited, but not totally null. I’d read two of his short stories—“The Killers” and “Hills Like White Elephants”—which I loved, and The Old Man and the Sea, which I hated. And still hate, for the record. There were a lot of elements in Hemingway’s style that I could leave or take. While the legendary, economical quality of his writing is impressive, it can also be a little brusque and abrasive. For the most part, I could leave or take Hemingway.

Then I read The Sun Also Rises. Thought to be semi-autobiographical, the novel is about Jake Barnes, an American expatriate living in Paris during the 1920s. The novel begins with Jake explaining what kind of guy his friend, Robert Cohn is. He talks about how Robert is kind of a weakling, a little sniveling, his wife walked out on him, etc. etc. Basically, he’s the exact kind of guy Jake doesn’t want to be.

But Jake’s own sense of manhood is called into question for two reasons. One: his relationship with Lady Brett Ashley. Brett is kind of a hot mess. She’s good-looking and smart, but she hops from man to man seeking fortune and and attention. But she always comes back to Jake whenever she really needs help or she’s looking for something “real.” But she says she’ll never get in a relationship with him for the second reason. Jake suffered an injury in the war that’s left him impotent, though the extent of this injury is never really explained.

Jake, Brett, Robert and a couple more people, including Brett’s fiancee take a trip to Spain to see some bullfights. Thematically, the bullfights are everything. They’re sex, love, masculinity, passion, all rolled into one symbolic event.

But the real interesting part of the novel for me was watching Jake struggle to define and live with his own manhood, even though he’s impotent and has to watch the love of his life dally around with man after man, including Robert Cohn. The struggle in that is what makes the whole book interesting, and what made me remember why I so liked the Hemingway of his short stories, and forget why I hated The Old Man and the Sea.

The point is, there’s a reason why The Sun Also Rises is a classic. It will always be one of my favorites because Hemingway explores masculinity and what it’s like to be a man without having to be vulgar, or obvious. Hemingway claimed that being simple and direct produced the greatest writing. Maybe so, and though I won’t be taking on his style anytime soon, I appreciate the perspective he writes from, in a manner that’s eloquent and unadorned.

INSPIRATION: James Rosenquist’s The Facet

6 Dec

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I love Pop Art. Rosenquist’s The Facet is one of my absolute favorites of all time! Can you see a story there?

WRITING: Seventeen Magazine Fiction Contest, vote for me!

5 Dec

Seventeen Magazine has partnered with Figment Fiction and Scholastic to offer a contest for fiction writers. I entered and suggest that anyone else who qualifies should too! Unfortunately for some, you have to be a girl between the ages of 13 and 21. But if you fit this criteria, you should enter the contest and compete for a chance at $5,000!

I would really LOVE to win, and I’ve been agonizing over my entry for months. If you do happen to enter, or have an account with the wonderful Figment Fiction can you “heart” my story, and give me a vote? Drop me an email and we can talk entries, and how hard it was to tell a story in just 500 words!

Vote for me HERE.

Follow Seventeen and Figment Fiction on Twitter at @seventeenmag and @Figmentfiction!

And get those entries in by December 31st!!