I spent the weekend completely ensconced in Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl, which had been recommended to me by, among others, my pal Katie Williams (who brought the book to my house! As a present!).
Blurry photo taken with my new iPhone
I was so ensconced that at separate points both my husband and my kid attempted to distract me (L. shoved another book in my face and demanded that I read; B. just said “Hi” over and over again until I looked up) in a vain attempt to get me to pay attention to them instead. It didn’t really work. I found the novel, a murder mystery with two very unreliable narrators, to be a total page-turner.
Of course I had to think about my statement last entry that above all these days I need to connect with and feel sympathy for a novel’s characters. Because somehow, in Gone Girl, Flynn gets you to simultaneously root for and hate both the main characters, Nick and Amy. And I thought it was brilliant.
I won’t say any more, lest I ruin it.
One caveat: my mom, who reads a lot of murder mysteries (Ruth Rendell etc.) declared that she “hated” this book. She found it predictable and boring. And I thought, since she’s my mom and all, that I should inform you.
Not much to say or plug this morning besides my pal Britt Bravo, who is running another Juicy Blogging E-Course this month. It’s $99, it starts on January 11, and you can find the info here. I really enjoyed this course. I learned a lot of basic things I had not before understood about this mysterious world of blogging.
Speaking of juicy, and blogging, I am thinking in the new year of changing my look, but of course I’m terrified of losing any content/readability. So stay tuned, but don’t be surprised if things look about the same.
On another juicy note, I got a new laptop! This still astounds me. I was really beginning to notice how much of a dinosaur the old one was. I’d had it since 2006 and was on my third hard drive. But I couldn’t fathom finding the dough for a new one. Well, Santa helped out a bit, and then while we were in the tax-free state of New Hampshire over Christmas it just seemed like a good idea to take advantage…and here we are. The only problem with my fabulous new MacBook Pro? My old Microsoft Office won’t run on it, so it’s looking like I’ll have to buy some software. This, frankly, sucks, but oh well.
I still have about 25 pages to read, but I am officially plugging Ann Patchett’s novel State of Wonder. The book was sitting on my bedside table for weeks but didn’t excite me, probably because the cover is kind of nondescript and the title just didn’t evoke much–innocence, childhood, maybe science? Then a friend said she was reading a novel about a single woman who travels to the Amazon and I thought, perfect.
Thank you google images
The book is just beautifully done. It has elements of magical realism, a la Karen Russell’s Swamplandia, but since I know that book annoyed a lot of people don’t take that as your main comparison. Perhaps I should say the book has elements of the otherworldly, and while it seems to be making a statement about primitivism–one might argue that it’s a bit reductive in its portrayal of Amazonian tribes of Indians–I am fascinated by the people that Dr. Marina Singh encounters on her journey. So much about it is surprising, unexpected. I realized about 50 pages ago that I had no idea what was going to happen, and as we all know, if you can’t wait to find out, that makes for a page-turner!
You may recall I mentioned Patchett’s Truth and Beauty as one of my Must-Read Memoirs way back when.
Well, folks, it’s the last day to vote in the Medium Short Fiction Contest, where my story “Shunyata” is an entry. As my sister in law said, I do wish it weren’t a popularity contest, but there you have it. I have been pretty popular; my story, about love lost and spirituality found, hit the #2 slot on Saturday but this morning is back around #5. Top three get read and judged by an agent and the prize is $2,012. Every vote really does count, and today is the last day to vote, and if you haven’t and you’re so inclined…well, I’m very grateful.
Well. Last week as I was frantically packing for a loooong Thanksgiving drive to Southern California I also managed to submit a short story to Medium’s Fiction Writing Contest. The story is called Shunyata. And I really hope you’ll read it. Then, if you like it, I hope you’ll vote for it. The system is a little tricky, but basically, you read; then you click “recommend.” Here is where it gets tricky. Once you hit recommend, you’re then asked to sign in to your Twitter account. I know–I didn’t have a Twitter account either. As far as I can tell, there’s no way around this but to get one. And then you can vote! (And if you want to follow me on Twitter, I’m @SusieMeserve.)
Here’s a teaser.
On the first Monday of last June my girlfriend Carrie?s mom got diagnosed with end-stage breast cancer and was dead the following Tuesday. It was one of those reverse miracles, an absolute mind-fuck. Me and Carrie flew to her parents? house in Cleveland for the funeral. It was the first time I?d met her dad. I never met her mom. We didn?t really do parents so much.
?Steven,? Mr. Weathers said to me. ?It?s good you?ve come.? I towered over him. Carrie said, ?Oh, Dad,? and embraced him. I stood there patting the back of her leather jacket like an idiot, because I didn?t know what else to do.
I had known Carrie for what seemed like forever?two years, by then?but, it turned out, wasn?t, because you don?t really know someone until you?ve seen the photos their parents keep of them around the house. There was Carrie, on the piano, on the mantelpiece, in her dad?s study: blonde, blue-eyed, full-lipped, high cheekboned, a little pudgy. There she was in her band uniform. There she was in fake pearls and a pink taffeta dress at junior prom, smiling behind unfamiliar lipstick, like a little girl playing dress-up. There she was in her parents? bedroom in a crackled photo with Tommy, her brother who died in a car accident when she was a senior in high school. When pressed, Carrie would say his death was probably what made her stop being a good girl, start smoking, start doing drugs, start wearing leather and motorcycle boots to class. The house in Cleveland suggested wealth and togetherness and wholesome family values, not my Carrie: cocktail waitress, smoker, heavy drinker?into taking long drives and suggesting we stop and fuck on the hood of my car.
Which, as far as I could remember, I had never refused.
And here is a photo of a Thanksgiving table, Southern California style. I hope everyone had a lovely day–I am grateful for many things, and for you, readers.
B just told me over a pot of pear-cinnamon jam that he’s getting tired of the plugs. I admit that my posts have been plug-heavy of late, but that’s what you get when you cross three classes with six hours in the writing lab plus two random freelance gigs that come in just as your mother-in-law and your mom are both coming to visit. Plugs are quick and easy, truth be told, especially during this very busy fall I’ve been having.
So, whaddya think? Enjoying my every-Monday pings for books and films and lectures I’m interested in promoting, or should my plugs just come up when exciting stuff is happening?
As it happens, I have no plug for today, other than to say: get thyself a writing group. It’s the best. And spend some good time with your family or your friends this week. We’re making Christmas presents (pear-cinnamon jam, anyone?) and I’m looking forward to Thanksgiving.
Here is a fall poem for today.
STEPS TO GET OVER
Again yesterday the wind rose & shook the leaves off
The trees throw shadows on the sidewalk
We trudge along avoiding each other
Because sometimes everyone is the enemy even
The guy in the trench coat & black hat lingers over the box
Where they keep the free newspapers taking one out
At the ballpark a baseball took off through
The stratosphere was pierced by a comet with rough edges
And a whole series of constellations you didn?t know
How sharp I was I just got your letter & photograph
Thank you I treasure it as an artifact of the love that never
Was I too effusive or too
Odd how the baseball takes its arc from the moon
If the moon were a motion it would be whoosh
Go the leaves on the sidewalk in a sudden brief gust
That leaves us all
Breathless is how I felt when I got your letter
And tucked it into the drawer alongside other things
Aren?t so good here since you last
Wrote memory is a funny thing because it makes us
Crazy people in the crosswalk & a marching band on the town hall steps
To get over you are too numerous to mention here
Come the cheerleaders who arrived with the marching band & will leave
On the shoulders of a hundred football players
Are birds of paradise whispering play
Secrets are not fun for the person who doesn?t notice
The sidewalk dappled with leaf-shaped light
A cigarette in winter & it?s a tiny planet in your fingers
(? Susie Meserve. First published in Cimarron Review, winter 2007.)