Lucky

There are some things that you simply cannot imagine before you’ve experienced them yourself. Your first kiss. The death of a loved one. Sex. Skydiving.

Rape.

Lucky by Alice Sebold (the other of The Lovely Bones) is her memoir of being raped in her first year of university. It talks about the incident itself and the legal proceedings afterwards, but most importantly it talks about the emotional aftermath of rape.

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Alice is so badly beaten that when it first happens, no one can ignore it. Her bruises and cuts are a constant reminder. But when she heals, when she starts to look like she used to, it’s easy for everyone to think that it’s over.

The truth is that it took her over a decade to recover from her rape. And this story shows the effect it had not only on her, but on everyone in her life. Because things don’t just go back to normal when the skin heals. Because some things are irrevocable. She continuously refers to it as her old life and her new one, because there is such a huge divide between the two.

This book is a remarkable insight into the life of a “survivor” of rape. It’s horrible and beautiful at the same time. It’s almost painful to read sometimes because it’s so real, so raw.

“It was an early nuance of a realization that would take years to face. I share my life not with the girls and boys I grew up with, or the students I went to Syracuse with, or even the friends and people I’ve known since. I share my life with my rapist. He is the husband to my fate.”

“No one can pull anyone back from anywhere. You save yourself or you remain unsaved.”

It was a moving book, a true insight into the issue of rape, something that you really can’t imagine until you’ve been through it. And I hope that this is as familiar as I ever get with rape.

Mythology Mondays: Telemachus sets sail

(Read the first part of my series on Odysseus here)

http://another-vision.deviantart.com/art/Pink-Dawn-109795918

Telemachus was woken by the rosy-fingered Dawn, and prepared himself to leave his home. He strode out and had the heralds gather the people for Assembly. Athena “lavished marvelous splendor on the prince” to impress the bystanders, and it worked. They “gazed in wonder as he came forward” to take his father’s chair.

Telemachus proposes that the Assembly vote to have the Suitors expelled from Ithaca. There’s a whole lot of shouting and rallying as Telamachus quarrels with his mother’s suitors. Finally Telemachus bursts into tears. They insulted his mommy, you see.

Book Two of the Odyssey is almost entirely fighting between Telemachus and his supporters and the Suitors. Eventually, Telemachus leaves the assembly hall, gets on his ship and sails off.

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Telemachus is going on a journey to visit his father’s friends, those who fought with him at Troy, to learn what information they might have about Odysseus. His first stop is Pylos to see King Nestor, in Book Three.

Telemachus is hesitant. Athena speaks to him, in the guise of Mentor, his father’s trusted friend.

“Telemachus, no more shynesss, this is not the time!
We sailed the seas for this, for news of your father -
where does he lie buried? what fate did he meet?
So go right up to Nestor, breaker of horses.
We’ll make him yield the secrets of his heart.
Press him yourself to tell the whole truth:
he’ll never lie - the man is far too wise.”

They continue to Nestor’s house. There’s some obligatory prayer and sacrafice. Then, they sit down to eat. As is customary, they enjoy their meal in full before Telemachus can ask the questions burning in his mind. Finally, the meal is finished and he speaks.

“I beg you - if ever my father, lord Odysseus,
pledged you his word and made it good in action
once on the fields of Troy where you Achaeans suffered,
remember his story now, tell me the truth.”

Nestor is an old man now, he was older than Odysseus at the beginning of the war and twenty years have passed since then. He replies with a lengthy tirade on the “living hell we endured in distant Troy” on the suffering of the ten years of war, mourning the loss of the dead, Achilles and Patroclus, Ajax and Nestor’s own son Antilochus.

Nestor tells Telemachus of the incidents after the fall of Troy. The gods had allowed the Greeks to win, but they were not content. They caused a division among the men as to what to do next. Menelaus wanted to return home as soon as possible, now that he had recaptured his wife Helen. Agamemnon, his brother, urged the men to stay for further plundering. Odysseus and Agamemnon fought in front of everyone - Odysseus sided with Menelaus.

Half of the Greeks left with Menelaus, half stayed behind. Odysseus followed Menelaus, but when the Greeks stopped to offer a sacrifice, Odysseus decided to turn back to see if he could convince Agamemnon to leave Troy.

Here, Nestor digresses to tell Telemachus the news that Agamemnon has been murdered, and Clytemnestra and Aegisthus in turn by Orestes.

Telemachus identifies with the story and says that he wishes he had his cousin (Oreste’s) courage and could avenge his father by killing his mothers suitors. Nestor says that Telemachus would be better to hope that Odysseus would return and avenge himself, but Telemachus is doubtful. Athena, still disguised as Mentor, chastises the boy and tells him to have more faith.

Nestor doesn’t really have much more to say, he seems preoccupied with the story of Agamemnon. He tells Telemachus that he would learn more from Menelaus than from himself, and Telemachus sets sail the next morning in the company of Nestor’s son Pisistratus, toward Sparta.

This part of the Odyssey, the first four books, is often called the Telemachy. Odysseus does not actually appear in the Odyssey until Book Five. The story is non-linear. It does not tell the adventures of Odysseys from the fall of Troy to his return directly. Instead, the audience discovers those events through the act storytelling by various characters - Nestor, Menelaus and Odysseus himself.

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The Telemachy provides the context and structure for the story of Odysseus, and also acts as it’s own coming of age story, the typical journey of the eponymous hero into manhood. As such, he needs the assistance of a mentor or guide - Athena’s assistance under the guise of Mentor is what give us that very word.

Reading Rainbow Revisted

Last June 26 I made a vow to try to read 50 books in a year. Shortly after, I also vowed to write about each book I read, at least a little.

I have read 33.

I really thought I would be able to do the 50, but I blame the fact that both my Christmas and summer holidays were cut short by studying for Canadian History. At the same time, I think 33 is still pretty impressive. And I did keep my second promise (oh yeah, the last two books I read were Living Dead in Dallas and Club Dead both by Charlaine Harris from the Sookie Stackhouse series and they were wonderfully addictive.) If you want to know all the books I read and what I thought of them, check out the 50 Books in a Year page.

And now, I’m going to attempt it all over again. This is Reading Rainbow Take Two! 50 books by June 26, 2010. This time I’ll make it. There are no rules, other then they have to be books I haven’t read before.

I’m a big reader, I used to read mainly fantasy and historical fiction, but I’ve since developed a love for any kind of fiction and even the occasional non-fiction. This is the “books” section of my Facebook profile:

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I would highly recommend any of those books, but for now I bring you my Top Ten Books So Far!

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10. The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

This book is for anyone who has ever felt like an outsider. In fact, this is our generation’s L’étranger (Camus.) A classic from the first day of it’s release, Perks of Being a Wallflower has a habit of defining our generation. Almost everyone I know has read this book and been changed by it. I’ve read it at least four times. It’s about being alone and together, about discovering yourself and others, and it’s about feeling infinite. It’s beautiful.

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9.  Gods Behaving Badly by Marie Phillips

If you’ve ever read this blog before, you know I love modern retellings of myths. Any myths, but especially Greek myths. The premise of this book is that the Greek gods are still alive, living all together in a house in London. It’s absolutely hilarious and very accurate, even! This is the book I wish I had written.

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8. Lord of Two Lands by Judith Tarr

This is the book that spawned my love for Alex. Yes, Alex as in Alexander the Great. This was the second Judith Tarr book I read, after Throne of Isis. Judith Tarr is, in my opinion, one of the best historical fiction writers out there. I read this book when I was in middle school, and I was definitely too  young for it. I didn’t even figure out Alex was gay until about halfway in. There was a passage about Alexander and Hephaestion that started with “Quiet as they were after love…” and I stared at it for a very long time before I finally realized it. When I reread the book a couple of years later, the older, wiser me was appauled that I had read it at the tender age of 13. It still remains one of my favourite books of all time. I’ve read it three times.

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7. The Pact by Jodi Picoult

I have read nearly every Jodi Picoult book that exists. Okay, it’s chick lit. But it’s good chick lit. It’s thoughtful and complex and most of all, it’s moving. Jodi Picoult has a way of getting to me like no one else. The first of her books that I read was My Sister’s Keeper (movie out this weekend, I’ll review it when I see!) I bought it on a whim when I was visiting Fae one summer, it was on sale. I was reading it on the train ride to meet my parents in State College. The train broke down for five hours (ew) but I finished the book. I tried not to cry in public, but it was hard. I chose The Pact, though, instead, because it’s the one that upset me the most. After reading The Pact, I cried for two days straight. For no reason other than the book. It’s beautiful and heartbreaking, and I adore Jodi Picoult for being able to create that kind of intense emotion.

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6. Anil’s Ghost by Michael Ondaatje

I love Canadian literature. A lot of my favourite authors are Canadian. I think it’s a highly underestimated genre. I read Anil’s Ghost in Grade 12 high school English class, as a study of Can Lit and postmodernism. Anil’s Ghost remains my ultimate example of postmodernism. This book is beautiful. It’s a complex web of scenes and thoughts and styles. A lot of people don’t like it because it’s not at all linear, but that’s the reason I love it so much. It’s like a puzzle.

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5. Girl Meets Boy by Ali Smith

This is the first on the list from the Canongate Myth Series. If you haven’t heard of it, it’s my favourite collection of books. The publishing company Canongate approached a number of well known authors from various different genres with the idea of writing a book that’s a retelling of a myth. Margaret Atwood’s Penelopiad is probably the famous popular, but I’ve read almost all of them and most of them are good. The myth that Ali Smith adapts is Iphis and Ianthe, one of my favourites. I’ll tell it on some Mythology Monday, but I don’t think I can do it as well as Ali Smith does. This book is pure poetry. It’s beautiful, from beginning to end. You fall in love with the characters, with the story.

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4. Truth & Beauty by Ann Patchett

One of the books I read this year. It overwhelmed me. It’s wonderful. You can read what I wrote about it last month here!

19843. 1984 by George Orwell

I went on a big kick one summer of reading all of the modern classics. I read Of Mice and Men, Great Gatsby, On the Road, etc. And 1984. I have always had a soft spot for dystopia sci-fi, and 1984 was definitely my kind of book. I think above all 1984 is a really important book. Today, and in 2084, 2184, etc. It really changes the way you think about things. It’s one of those books that I find myself randomly thinking about sometimes.

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2. Breakfast of Champions by Kurt Vonnegut

Breakfast of Champions was the book that Kurt Vonnegut wrote for his 50th birthday. And so when my dad turned 50 he told me he wanted a copy. I obliged, and then I read it after him. The first time I read it was when I was 16. I adored it. It was the first Vonnegut book I read, and he’s one of my favourite authors. His style is so unique. Funny and poignant. I read the book a second time when we studied it in my 20th Century Lit class in first year. Let me tell you, analyzing the concept of wide open beavers (with drawings by Vonnegut himself!) makes a three hour class very interesting!

weight

1. Weight by Jeanette Winterson

My favourite of the Canongate Myth series and my favourite book of all time (so far) is Weight. If you’ve been reading this blog a while, you may have caught on to my love of Jeanette Winterson. This book is a retelling of the Atlas and Heracles story, and it’s beautiful. It’s one of those books I read where I thought afterwards “Of course this book exists.” It was so… perfect. I wish I could write like that. Since I’m going to be in the UK in September, I may stalk Jeanette Winterson so that maybe her genius will rub off on me a little…

Trail of paper

Last night I started my Visa application.

My life is being overcome by paperwork and things to do. I have to go in for my appointment with my supporting documents a week from Monday. Before then I have to go to the bank and get a letter to prove that I have enough money.

I also applied for OSAP (Ontario Student Assistance Program) to get a student loan with slightly less interest and more forgiveness than my student line of credit. For this I need to provide a copy of my SIN (Social Insurance Number) card. I lost my SIN card about 6 years ago, right after I got it. So this means that I have to go and get myself a new SIN card.

I also left my debit card in the ATM last night and have to go get a new one of those. On top of that I have a doctor’s and dentist appointment later this month to get myself all checked out before going over.

This is after the trail of paperwork from Athabasca to Carleton to Newcastle that was earlier this month to sort out my transcripts and acceptance letter.

And these are only small items on the mile long list that is Things to Do Before I have to Leave IN TWO MONTHS!

The hilarious part of my night was this on my visa application:

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Um, please define…?

Far

You know when you love an artist, but you haven’t liked them long enough that you’ve been around for a new CD release? You download/buy/steal everything that they did up until that point and anxiously await the new.

And then somehow their new stuff just isn’t good enough to live up to your expectations?

It’s happened to me so many times and so I was worried about the new Regina Spektor CD, Far. What if I hated it? Regina Spektor, to me, is God.

Luckily, I wasn’t the least bit disappointed. It came out yesterday and it’s just as wonderful as I wanted it to be.

Man of a Thousand Faces

Listening to Regina Spektor is an intense experience for me. Like reading a good book, it takes me time to think about it and process it. I once listened to Braille on repeat for an entire day. I’ve been known to put Samson on repeat too.

So far, my favourite of her new songs are Calculations and One More Time with Feeling. But I rediscover Regina songs, new and old, all the time.

Hold on, one more time with feeling.
Try it again, breathing’s just a rhythm.
Say it in your mind until you know that the words are right,
This is why we fight.