Running with Scissors

It’s been less than a month and I’ve already read 6 books. And six times twelve is like.. seventy two or something (okay, clearly my skill is in reading, not mathematics.)

I had intended to read this book on the airplane tomorrow, but I guess I’ll have to find another. I just started reading it on Thursday, I didn’t expect it to go so fast.

Running with Scissors was… psychotic. Definitely. Is there any other way to describe it?

There are times in the book where you want to laugh, cry and shudder. It’s hilarious, but also sad and disturbing. But best of all, it’s honest. That’s the thing I liked the best about it. Everything seemed so real, so honest. Augusten Burroughs is a very entertaining writer.

Some favs (some of them are WTF lines, others are funny, others very true):

“The sour smell of old milk cartons, egg shells and emptied ashtrays filled me with pleasure.”

“It was my secret hope that the door would fly open on the highway and I would tumble from the car, rolling onto the highway where I would be crushed beneath the tires of the Barstow onion truck behind us. Then my father would be sorry he wouldn’t let me have the coffee table.”

“For exactly the same reason, it is sometimes satisfying to cut yourself and bleed. On those gray days where eight in the moring looks no different from noon and nothing has happened and nothing is going to happen and you are washing a glass in the sink and it breaks - accidentally - and punctures your skin. And then there is this shocking red, the brightest thing in the day, so vibrant it buzzes, this blood of yours. That is okay sometimes because at least you know you’re alive.”

“After was better. Before was only there so After could happen.”

“..and then I fell in love with him only he turned out to not be worth loving, I think I’m angry with him about that.”

“If you get to be a writer and be all those different people, then I get to be at least two things.”

I really enjoyed this book. Lots to think about. And while I’m heard of some psychotic families… well… holy shit. Hahaha.

I’m going to watch the movie now!

Lavinia

I was amazed when I found this book at Chapters. 1) Lavinia! I’d never even thought about taking such a minor character in the Aeneid and writing a book! Clearly, no one else had until now. 2) I’ve always been very interested in Ursula K. LeGuin as an author, though I haven’t read much by her. This is because I absolutely love a couple of her short stories, and an essay I read by her. She’s a beautiful writer. The problem is, a lot of her stuff is a little too sci-fi for me. Also, I once attempted to read Tehanu. Which I got about half way through and still didn’t understand. This, I have concluded, is my own fault because I should have read the other three books in the series first. Which I also own. But Tehanu had the prettiest cover… hahaha.

Anyway! So, Ursula K. LeGuin + rewrite of the Aeneid (Penelopiad style!) = a must buy.

I think I read the first half of this book holding my breath. It was gorgeous. It just seemed right to me, the character, the ideas. The idea that Lavinia had no voice in the Aeneid, that this was her voice… it was wonderful. I adored it. I fell in love with Aeneas as she did, as I think all Romans did when they read (or heard) the Aeneid. Lavinia has had lots of criticism on the more modern approach, saying that it wasn’t accurate, it was too romantic, etc. But I think that that was the point. It was a modern epic. Because epics are supposed to be like that. Romance and reshaping truth.

I think what LeGuin said herself in her afterword was really how I felt. She said that she wanted to make these people Roman. She wanted to show them as the first roots of the Roman Empire, she wanted to show how they would have seen themselves and each other. And it suceeded.

It reminded me of watching 300. A lot of people criticize 300 for not being historically accurate. But what people don’t realize with the ancient texts is that there’s no separation between history and myth. Myths are true. The inexplicable heroics are true. To them. So for me, 300 is the movie that Herodotus or Thucydides would have made if they could make a movie. More propaganda than fact, but the truth is there, whether factual or not.

The point of Lavinia is to tell the story again (to use a Winterson-ism). To tell it in a way that two thousand years after the Aeneid, we would understand it and feel it and be a part of it. In myth - in greater truth rather than in true fact.

Some favourite lines, as usual:

“But then I think no, it has nothing to do with being dead, it’s not death that allows us to understand one another, but poetry.”

“I know who I was, I can tell you who I may have been, but I am, now, only in this line of words I write. I’m not sure of the nature of my existence, and wonder to find myself writing.”

“My mother was mad, but I was not. My father was old, but I was young. Like Spartan Helen, I cause a war. She caused hers by letting men who wanted her take her. I caused mine because I wouldn’t be given, wouldn’t be taken, but chose my man and my fate.”

“The poet sang me the fall of Troy, his story told of the king’s daughter Cassandra, who foresaw what would happen and tried to prevent the Trojans from letting the great horse into the city, but no one would listen to her: it was a curse laid on her, to see the truth and say it and not be heart. It is a curse laid on women more often than on men. Men want truth to be theirs, their discovery and property.”

“They lived and died as women do and the poet sang them. But he did not sing me enough life to die. He only gave me immortality.”

LeGuin admits that she is in love with the words of Virgil. This is very apparent in the book. Lavinia, aware of her fictiousness, aware that she is created by a poet living hundreds of years later, also falls in love with Virgil. It’s lovely. A tribute to Virgil, and rightly so.

All this being said, I found the end of the book a little less exciting than the beginning After the death of Aeneas, LeGuin went on to summarize the rest of Lavinia’s life in a very narrative way, which sort of lost my interest in parts and really lacked the insight and character of the first half.

I really love this new trend to reexamine the classics (obviously). I also love this new(ish) idea of a text that is aware of it’s textuality. Of characters aware of their own fiction and storytelling. There’s a real word for this, but it escapes me right now.

Lavinia was, in my opinion, well worth the read, and much better than the Penelopiad if it need be compared. Though it did share a lot of the themes of the Penelopiad (feminism, retelling, characters aware of their own fiction and grounding the epic hero.)

Makes me want to read the Aeneid again. The Aeneid, I would say, is written with much more craft and ease than its predecessors, the Iliad and the Odyssey. Virgil tells a better story. However, Homer tells a better battle. But that is a nerdy discussion for another day.

The Day of the Triffids

Today I finished the Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham.

I read this because I loved the Chrysalids. I must say that I probably enjoyed the Chrysalids more, but the Day and the Triffids was still very interesting.

I have a thing for dystopia and end of the world books. It’s my minor foray into the world of science fiction. I love the idea of human nature and society, and what happens to humans when you take away the rules and the control.

I also loved the idea of the world ending, basically, with very few survivors, in the Day of the Triffids. This being, mostly, because I’m still in the process of writing the part about Deucalion and Pyrrha in the Metamorphoses. And I was interested in what others thought it might feel like to be one of the last people on earth.

Lonely, I think, is the consensus.

The Day of the Triffids was an interesting book. A little dull, in parts. It’s not my favourite style of writing - it’s written as if the main character, Bill, is giving you his history. Things are told, they don’t really happen. Which I find works in two different ways. For one, you don’t really get pulled into events in the plot. But secondly, you do get more insight into the ideas and theories behind it. Because it’s written from perspective. So Bill can tell you, “This is how I felt now, and six years later I realized that…” Which makes it more of an interesting study in human nature and ideology rather than an actual story.

I did really like the book, however. It definitely made me think.

The best line, in my opinion:

“And we danced, on the brink of an unknown future, to an echo from a vanished past.”

The Day of the Triffids was much ore interesting in terms of theory than plot, but it made me think and I enjoyed it. Plus, it’s a classic, right?

Lighthousekeeping

Lighthousekeeping by Jeanette Winterson.

You may have noticed my recent love for Jeanette Winterson. Ever since I read Weight, I’ve been in love. Winterson writes the words I’m thinking, the words I can’t find. She writes the way I wish I could write, the way I wish I could think. Every single word means something. It’s like food for my creative side.

I try to mark off the pages where there are really good lines in the books I read. With Winterson, I always chose almost every page.

I’ve read Weight, Sexing the Cherry and now Lighthousekeeping.

All three books are about stories. About telling stories, about life stories and about being a story. It’s brilliant. They are fact and fiction and neither. They are absolutely breathtaking from beginning to end.

Lighthousekeeping was exactly what I was expecting from Winterson, and even more. It’s about love and storytelling and the real meaning of truth. I have to put up some of my favourite quotes, though it will be hard to choose, because this book really caught me.

“Tell me a story, Pew.
What kind of story, child?
A story with a happy ending.
There’s no such thing in all the world.
As a happy ending?
As an ending.”

“You must never doubt the one you love.
But they might not be telling you the truth.
Nevermind that. You tell them the truth.
What do you mean?
You can’t be another person’s honesty, child, but you can be your own.
So what should I say?
Whem?
When I love someone?
You should say it.”

“This is not a love story, but love is in it. That is, love is just outside it, looking for a way to break in.”

“I’ll call you, and we’ll light a fire, and drink some wine, and recognise each other in the place that is ours. Don’t wait. Don’t tell the story later. Life is so short. This stretch of sea and sand, this walk on the shore, before the tide covers everything we have done. I love you. The three most difficult words in the world. But what else can I say?”

The main character, Silver, is born lost. Fatherless, she belongs to a crooked house and crooked mother. When her mother dies, she belongs to no one and nowhere. And so she is sent to live with Pew, the blind lighthouse keeper, and become his apprentice. From him she learns how to tell her own story, how to write her own life and find her own truth.

And I truly felt as if, by the end of the book, I had found a little more of my own truth, my own story.

With every Jeanette Winterson book I read, my envy and inspiration grows. She is truly amazing. I wish I had her words.

The Host

The Host, by Stephenie Meyer. I devoured the Twilight series last summer in Ireland, I was completely addicted to them, despite my original annoyance with the writing style.

I was not disappointed by the Host. I call it crack fiction. Addictive, not necessarily the best for you. But I really enjoy reading books purely for pleasure sometimes, mostly thoughtless and entertaining. It’s why I read Nora Roberts (sometimes), and definitely why I read the Twilight series.

However, the Host proved to be a lot less thoughtless than I’d anticipated. This book is geared a little bit more towards an adult audience, which I definitely appreciated. I like what Meyer does. She does it well. I can definitely understand why so many people like her books. Her biggest strength is characters. You can’t help but fall in love with her characters. Her books are so full of love and fear and raw emotion, that I often found myself tearing up while reading the Host.

In the Host Meyer went one step past just good characters like in the Twilight books. In this book, the plot was fairly decent, too. What can I say, I love a good dystopia/end of the world book. And to have created a whole new world.. well, that was pretty cool.

The only thing I can flaw Meyer for, really, is the fact that her characters are a little too perfect, her endings a little too happy. But I think that sometimes that’s a really good thing.

I thoroughly enjoyed the Host from beginning to end - I read it in less than three days. It wasn’t life changing, but it was certainly entertaining.