Thursday, July 22, 2010

Radcliffe's Short List

I have been an avid reader for all my living memory. I can recall reading books outside on the playground instead of joining the other children for teether-ball or double dutch. As I grew older, my appetite for meatier books emerged, and so a few years ago, I embarked upon a challenge to read every book on Radcliffe's 100 Greatest Novels of the 20th Century. I have now read 60 of the 100 books on the list. I have read some mind-numbingly boring books that made me question the committee's sanity like The Sound And The Fury by William Faulkner, Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad, or O Pioneer! by Willa Cather. Though bored, I still appreciated the fact I had read such classic titles. While not every book on the list was stellar, I have found some gems, and would like to share a short list of some amazing books on my list.

1. A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess - While Ulysses still holds the record for most difficult book to read in the English language, A Clockwork Orange surely was in the running. While Ulysses' difficulty lies in the stream of conscious method of writing where it is hard to tell which character is offering the story and if they are doing so in speech or thought, A Clockwork Orange is instead ladened with an entire vernacular particular to the book. This experiment in language makes it hard to keep track of the story until one has learned an entire new vocabulary list. Beneath the lexicon is a haunting look at youth and violence, but it is the way Burgess immerses you in a completely new and foreign culture that is so different than your own with the shear usage of words that makes this book a classic.

2. Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov - Lascivious and erogenous does not usually turn readers away, unless the subject of such lust is a 12-year-old nubile young girl. For a book that sounds by overview to be a field-guide to pedophilia, the beauty in Nabokov's words so overtake the dark subject matter that it elevates the entire text to the level of art. While "Lolita" is lauded to be a metaphor of European versus American culture, the theme pales in the power of the language. Reading his proses makes me want to wring ever shadowy meaning, shade of beauty, and drop of imagery out of my own words. Oh, if I could write like this:
"Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul. Lo-lee-ta: the tip of the tongue taking a trip of three steps down the palate to tap, at three, on the teeth. Lo. Lee. Ta."
"She was musical and apple-sweet ... Lola the bobby-soxer, devouring her immemorial fruit, singing through its juice ... and every movement she made, every shuffle and ripple, helped me to conceal and to improve the secret system of tactile correspondence between beast and beauty--between my gagged, bursting beast and the beauty of her dimpled body in its innocent cotton frock."
"All at once we were madly, clumsily, shamelessly, agonizingly in love with each other; hopelessly, I should add, because the frenzy of mutual possession might have been assuaged only by our actually imbibing and assimilating every particle of each other's soul and flesh."
3. Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell - While all of Orwell's writing is political by nature, Nineteen Eighty-Four's themes of utopianism, totalitarianism, bureaucracy, and the classic dichotomy of security vs freedom, all serve to discuss the more personal theme of individuality. It is a story that tells how an oppressive government can quash all traces of an individual and humanity by eradicating all freedom from every aspect of the populace's lives. The Party does so by removing words for the language to restrict logic, vilifying sex and sexuality, installing television in every home that cannot be turned off, turning the eye of Big Brother on you at all times, and even making it illegal to commit a "thought crime" which is nothing more than thinking individual thoughts. The book has become the quintessential example of dystopia, and the classic illustration of the danger a totalitarian government poses to an independent mental existence.

4. Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut - While Hemingway is often considered Picasso's literary equivalent, I rather think Vonnegut is a more apt fit. Where Picasso found the rigid rules of art stifling and bucked all established rules to the point this his art is instantly recognizable, the same goes for Vonnegut's writing. Any time one picks up his work, you can instantly detect his thumbprints all over the page. Cat's Cradle, Breakfast of Champions, or Timequake all are time capsules that hold the ghost of their creator's hand, but none more so than Slaughterhouse-Five. While you may have never read it, it's influence is spread through modern media like spider-web cracks on a windshield. The idea of being unstuck in time was one of the basis for Lost's Seasons 4,5, and 6, the fact it is still banned in many school libraries, and the pervasive catch- phrase, "So it goes" all stem for this absurdist classic.

5. Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand - While many self proclaimed book worms will waffle when asked what their favorite piece of fiction is, I suffer no such indecision. Unquestionable my choice would be Atlas Shrugged. Widely acknowledged as her magnum opus, Rand found a way to weave dry, political theory into perfect artistic form. Her politics could not be more askew with my own, but every time I am enveloped within her pages, I give her theory real consideration. While you may think the again a book that champions a man's mind as his own domain in a dystopian society is redundant after Nineteen Eighty-Four, but it is not. Atlas Shrugged instead explores what happens when we let those minds elevate to their utmost potential in a purely capitalist society. A subtle difference, but one that I think makes both books worthy of the list. Admittedly it takes a few reads to truly answer "Who is John Galt?", but once you do, I think you will be able to understand my love for all things Rand.

6. Catch 22 by Joseph Heller - Another satire made the short list, but unlike Slaughterhouse Five with the real pain of war bubbling just below the surface, Catch 22 examines
how the bureaucratic nature of the modern military hampers any true hope of success. Even the title hints at the theme of the military rule is embroiled in self-contractory logic. The story is told in a non-sequential manner with different characters narrating each section, but each telling how the bureaucracy they toiled under marginalized them as individuals.

7. The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger - What more can be said about The Catcher in the Rye? The novel captures the existential teenage angst that used to boil beneath all of us. Despite the story being so part of our literary culture that it is almost trite, I still find myself breezing through it every couple of years to enjoy it like a conversation with an old friend.

8. Orlando by Virginia Woolf - Admittedly I had to start this novel several times, and I blame Woolf for that mostly. Who's afraid of Virginia Woolf? I am. All her books are considered "difficult reads" due to her adding a third layer to her characters, the unconscious mind, how she writes her character's narrative, her loose adherence to standard story telling techniques and feeling no need to ever end a sentence. Despite all of this, once I got into Orlando, I really enjoyed the juxtaposition of the gender and what commentary it said about inequality the of the sexes in her times. Orlando spends the first half of the book a male, pursuing stereotypical masculine endeavors, and the second part of the book trying to bring a male mind to terms with the absurdities present in a female's world.

9. White Noise by Don DeLillo - While all the other books on this list were familiar to me by title or author, White Noise was a gem just waiting to be found. DeLillo is paints pictures to vivid I can almost feel myself standing in the grocery store beneath the florescent lights or running beside him as ash rains down upon us. His writing is the very pinnacle of active writing. He could be writing about the chemical spill, the Hitler studies class, or the main character drinking in his wife as they lay in bed and all are just as engaging. I read this book at a snail's pace to capture ever last sentence structure and word combination. His art is to young and impulsive and makes each page a new adventure. Trying to explain is like trying to tell you what a sunset looks like when all you have to do is turn to see it. So, I will leave you with a quote:
"How strange it is. We have these deep terrible lingering fears about ourselves and the people we love. Yet we walk around, talk to people, eat and drink. We manage to function. The feelings are deep and real. Shouldn't they paralyze us? How is it we can survive them, at least for a while? We drive a car, we teach a class. How is it no one sees how deeply afraid we were, last night, this morning? Is it something we all hide from each other, by mutual consent? Or do we share the same secret without knowing it?"

Sunday, July 18, 2010

A Pregnant Pause

I was asked once, "If you died today what would be the thing you most regretted not doing". Without a moment's hesitation I said, "Be pregnant". My answer took me by surprise, but after some introspection, I realized it was the absolute truth. Now being a single woman, I am well aware that my desire is not something that should be shouted from the rooftop. The same way men are not suppose to talk about breasts or wanting their wives to stay home; women are not suppose to mention or even hint at the fact they are ready to get married, have sexual desire, or (gasp) ready to make a commitment. Saying you want to be pregnant smacks of all three, and thus represents the utmost taboo. A woman can yammer on all day about her career, or how J. Crew has far superior jeans than The Gap, but one mention of wanting to use her uterus and men become very interested the grout pattern between the tiles under his feet. Perhaps men's Victorian attitude toward the matter stems from a fear that at any moment they will be drawn into a conversation about her cycle, or someone might mention the word "mucus", or they will be having mental flashes of what exactly an episiotomy is for the rest of the week.

My desire has been met with criticism in the past. The most memorable objection was when I was told, "You know at the end of pregnancy there is a screaming invalid to take care of". Yes, I can see how that would be a deterrent. I am by no means saying that I am not ready to have children; I am saying that my desires to be pregnant and to have a baby are not one in the same. They are completely independent of one another. I want to experience pregnancy; to watch my body grow and change, to fulfill its ultimate purpose. Everything we experience in this world comes to us through our senses; we experience the world through our bodies. I already know how great it feels to stretch my muscles after a great night sleep, the flush of blood in my cheeks when I sit in front of a heater, and how silky it is when I rub my freshly shaven leg together. But I am at the end; there is nothing left. I already know what it feels like when tears dry on my face, there is no mystery there. I am ready experience my body in a different way.

I want to know what it feels like to be kicked from the inside. I want to marvel at the sheer size of my swollen abdomen. I want every last one of the million other little experiences that I can't identify because pregnancy is so different than anything else my body has ever done. I want to know life from a different body, from the body of a pregnant woman. When I consider my body as this marvelous machine meant for a higher purpose, I can almost feel a separation of my body and spirit. Pregnancy and ultimately birth are my biological inheritance, it is the fulfillment of the promise made to me at puberty, it is the essence of my feminine heritage. Passing into pregnancy will induct me into a sisterhood that stretches out in both directions of time; connecting me to the score of women who have gone before and enable generations to follow.

Currently I lay fallow as a field and between my job at a fertility center, a pregnant man in the news, and the relative age group to which I belong, it seems everyone around me is pregnant. So at the chance of sounding politically incorrect and at the risk breaking the ultimate taboo, I say loud and unapologetic: I want to be pregnant!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Writing Exercise: "I thought I saw..."

The Preacher once told me that the best way to improve my writing it to write everyday. I seem to be at a standstill with each piece one of my fiction pieces, so decided to go to a creative writing prompt website, and go with the first prompt I came upon.

Prompt 68 - Begin with "I thought I saw..."

I thought I saw your shadow amongst those dancing on the wall, weaving in an out of fluid flux of wind animated trees. I thought I heard the rustle of the carpet beneath your bare feet, and waited, just waited for the pads of your fingers to trace down my bare back, rolling across the alternating hills and valleys of my spine. The need for your touch is so palpable, that goosebumps form in anticipation of that which will not come.

I am ever in awe of how my body responds to your touch. The kiss of your skin upon mine transforms this mundane vessel that takes me from dull tasks of the day to day, that carries me to my obligations of society. There is no better way to say than when you touch me, there is fire. The skin beneath your hand bursts with electricity and rips across my entire being. Mind, body, and soul. Like an oven, the heat lasts long after its use is done. My body craves you so, that it retains that tingle for hours upon end. Each nerve alive and reaching out to recover your touch. Your touch is what keeps me going when the day seems flat and my life static. I simply have to recall the magic in your fingertips and I am alive again. Your touch makes me sing, it makes me long, it makes it possible to go on.

Tonight as I lay here, mourning a night we must spend apart, my mind wanders back to a different night. A night that started in grey, muted tones, and ended with my rebirth. It was the night that day shone, for it was the night you came into my life. That night your presence made the mundane magnificent. Leaning against the wall, I watched you through the throngs of people, and felt myself come alive. Suddenly aware of all around me, I began to notice life's nuisances with my new senses.

Awakened and alive, I could feel the artificial chill clashing with the collective body heat rising off the crowd upon my skin. My back prickled against the textured rills of plaster prodding me through my thin gauze dress. Then when your blue pools finally turned to me and met with mine, my heartbeat became so loud in my ears that the choir of voices became a mere drone. Crossing the room toward me, I saw scenes for our life together that at the time, I dare not hope for. Your hand sliding over the slight crest of my stomach, my cheek upon your bare chest as my endless locks spread in all directions, the slight pause as you take in my scent before gently laying a kiss upon my forehead. I saw it all before it happened.

That night did you know that this is was what love was going to be like? Were you aware from the start that this thing would completely envelope us, that it would take over everything? Had you known that this was how love would control you, would you have allowed the conception to begin in your heart? Each day as the pervasive thing moves through my being, and changes everything it touches, I wonder these questions to myself. Would the person I was, the one living in half-tones of color, so selfish and self-absorbed, have allowed the change had the outcome been known for the start? For now my being is so intertwined with yours, that I would scarcely know myself without you. Two halves to a whole. Is that healthy? Perhaps this virus we call love's greatest trick is not letting those whom it has affected know what they are in store for.

Is love merely a creation of the mind, or is our love so real that it can be perceived through the senses? When your hand envelopes mine, cupping it from the top and completely encasing it as your fingers curl towards the bottom and that tiny spark transfers from your insides to mine, tell me, is that the transmission of love? My love is so poignant that it must be a tangible and measurable thing. How can something so all encompassing and overwhelmingly power be a simple product of a fallible imagination? When you are above me and my hands rove across your bare back, your love seethes so close to the surface that it is palpable. Our love is more powerful that the draw of gravity or the pull of magnetic forces, so how can its power not be a force of nature? To look at you is to know the truth about love.

My reflections are doing nothing to stem the torrent of loneliness. So lazing done, eyes fold together in prayer, I drift off to sleep. It is the only way to soothe the ache of your absence and to hasten the morning of your return. For when I wake, the salve to my soul will be the brassy tones of the morning sun kissing your face. Until then my sweet love, until then.

Bring Home The Bacon And Fry It Too

The kitchen is sweetly scented with the aroma of coconut toasting in the oven. My counters are covered with a thin layer of confectionaries sugar that was blown up and out of my stand mixer as it tends to do when added to fast. The frosting feels tacky between my fingers and streaks up my forearm. Looking around I can see the work it will take to return my tiny kitchen to its original order, yet I stand amid the disarray both sticky and happy.

Hours earlier I donned in my literal apron and set to work making my first homemade carrot cake. In today's world of easy boxed cakes, instant microwavable meals, and handy snack preserved in shiny packaging, you can become so far removed from the food that it seems unnecessary and somewhat lavish to make things from scratch. I can churn out a boxed cake in 12 minutes flat and have the whole thing, baked, iced, and the evidence my kitchen was ever used gone in an hour timeframe. But did I really make something or add heat to someone else's creation?

Here is where I make Gloria Steinem pick up the phone and have me banned from every N.O.W. meeting, Planned Parenthood rally and Democratic Women's Caucus luncheon from now till my death day, but I really love to cook. From conception, to inception, to commencement, the process is wholly satisfying in a way that painting or sculpting must be to others. I love to put my hand on food and transform it into something special. I love to take a jumble of ingredients and force order out of chaos. But mostly I love to cook for those I care for. I love to make them feel how much I really do care, to feel my affection in a very tangible way.

Despite my innate love, I usually don't advertise my culinary predilection for one simple reason. In the Mormon culture, somewhere right around the age of Young Men's, from what I can tell, the boys are taught that if they open their mouths like guppies, some good intentioned girl is going to deposit food right in there. Let us be clear here, I love to cook, not be used.

When I cook, I am doing service. Feeding you is the same as rubbing your shoulders after a long day, driving you to the airport, or bringing you medication when you are sick; I do it because I care not because it is somehow owed to you. A good rule of thumb is if we have never hung out at both mine and your house, you probably should not ask me to cook for you. If you don't know my brother's name or where I work, you probably should not ask me to cook for you. If it would be weird for me to call you at 2am and ask you to come and pick me up because my car won't start, then you probably should not ask me to cook for you.

Candidly, my fascination with cooking started as marriage prep. Gloria Steinem be damned, I want to be an apron wearing, lunch box stuffing, child bearing, minivan driving, house cleaning, laundry folding, window washing, carpet vacuuming, quilt sewing, taxi driving, lullaby singing, stay-at-home mom. Knowing the skills required for my dream job don't develop over night, I began slowly working on my cooking skills because it was something I could both hone and share.

My first attempts were abysmal. Countless hours and dollars were spent on food that was inedible to even the most desperate of dogs. If you ever have the pleasure of meeting my father, asking him about the first macaroni and cheese I made for Christmas, the ham in the Coke marinade, or why I am no longer allowed to "salt to taste". Despite the setbacks, I pushed forward. Perseverance paid off and I can now make amazing things like homemade carrot cake, which required even zest a lemon for the homemade icing.

The joy and fulfillment I get from cooking is something that not all of my gender share. Some lack the joy in the task but still know their way around a kitchen, while other seem to lack the gene altogether. Asserting their feminism, they revel in the fact that they refuse to cook. They took the call to severe their apron strings to heart and never took a second look back at the kitchen, where pots go unfilled, ovens stand cold, plates remain empty.

Shouts ring in my ears that this is the feminist thing to do, that I deny my sisters in arms by picking up the spatula. I say nay, dear friends. Feminism is about giving women the equality of choices. While most think this means I must now be preoccupied with breaking the glass ceiling, they forget it is still my choice. I am a middle-class, educated women who earns an excellent wage for my labors. Ladies we have arrived. I have achieved all that Steinem and her cohorts fought so hard for and I truly thank her for that. But when I get married, I want my choice of being a stay at home mom to be just as valuable as the choices I made to get me this far. Why does that make my feminism any less valid?

Talking with a male friend the other day, he expressed his frustrations with the "new woman", with the woman sans spatula. He told me how he is expected to go out, wrestle the bear, bring home the pelt and still fend for himself when it came to dinner. Obviously that is an exaggeration of the comment, but I can see his point. When women are asked to act more like men, what territory is left for men to inhabit? How can we ask men to feel fulfilled and valued if it is his women who is breaking up the bar fight?

Today, men are still expected to be manly, but have no right to expect women to be womanly. He is considered sexist and a chauvinist when he seeks a wife who can cook, who is not a slob, who wants to have his children. Again, I think we missed the essential crux of the feminist argument, choice. They fought so hard for women to have the choice, let us extend the same curtesy to him. He has a right to chose a women who suits him. He has the right to chose not to accept your laziness in the relationship. So, while you may chose to assert your power by refusing to touch a frying pan, don't be surprised if you say "table for one" more often than you like.

P.S. I clean too!

Monday, July 12, 2010


Recently I had a friend send me all the old posts I had posted on my old blog before I switched over to I quite enjoyed reading over the more literary posts I had crafted, and figured that since I am too tired to blog tonight, I would instead repost a vintage piece entitled, "Singlehood".

(Twenty points to anyone who can post a comment on why this particular picture was chosen for this post)

Glancing at my calendar this week, I noticed that every day was booked except for last Tuesday night. I decided to make a date with myself and go eat at Jason's Deli and look for a new mixing bowl at Bed, Bath, and Beyond. I tell you, I am a wild one. A tray full of Beef Eater, strawberries, and Baked Lays in front of me and Jack Johnson's new album on my iPod left me in hog heaven. Two bites into my sandwich I spied a girl I went to nursing school with in line waving at me. Next to her was a tan Adonis who would make Brad Pitt question if he was still the hottest man in the room. I suddenly became acutely aware of my ponytail, hospital t-shirt, and au-juice running down my chin. As I quickly preened myself, she rounded the corner to reveal her swollen abdomen. The conversation started at her belly (twins), then moved on to her new husband (doctor), and her job (none, she is married to a doctor). When we ran out of things to cover in her wonderful life, she craned her neck to eye my meal for one, crinkling her sun-kissed nose, and asked how things were going for me. I updated her on my new job (no, not what I really want to be doing), my new place (I don't own, I still rent), and my love life (we broke up and he is now married). She listened with her head cocked sympathetically as she made circuits around her gravid stomach. Not knowing what to say as she reached for her husband's hand, she hastily blurted out, "Well, good luck with all that".

I sat back down to single serving fare and became to ponder her words. Good luck with that? Good luck with what? Being a single woman of a certain age, you become used to people asking you, "So when are you going to settle down?" I never know quite how to answer that. Should I be glib and tell them that it is on my to-do list, I just haven't gotten around to it yet? Or should I be honest and tell them of the overwhelming loneliness that I feel when my soul cries for its companion? Neither answer is satisfactory, and I unsure of what answer I could possibly give them that would be. I am so weary of others pointing out the fact to me as if I was oblivious. I am more acutely aware of my singlehood than any other person could be. It stalks me and taints everything I touch. I have never tried so hard at something and been so bad at it. I heard once that getting married is like playing duet; you can sit down at the piano and play but not matter how hard you try, it still takes someone else to sit down next to you and play their part.

I tire of sitting through half-hearted conversations that always end in, "I am sure it will happen for you". What makes you so sure, when I am not even sure? In the less than 1% of the entire world's population that is male, LDS, and worthy, what are the chances that I will find one who wants to be with me for eternity. I have trouble getting men to commit to dinner, let alone sacred rites in the House of the Lord. This must be what childless couples feel when someone bouncing a cherubic child on their knee as they too are told, "I am sure it will happen for you". Perhaps people utter these words because they too recognize the bleakness of that future. They cannot imagine what it would be like to walk this world alone, and the thought of eternity yawning out in front of them sends waves of panic through their chest. What else can they say?

There is a definite division between the marrieds and the single. I have bid entire generation of ward families into couplehood and have yet to see one of them since. It is as if they disappear into the spirit world and those of us left on earth can not longer see or speak to them. One day when you slip into the spirit world, you are going to see all the old friends you thought you had lost, just waiting to induct you into their cult. You will start doing things like going to Pampered Chef parties, singing the praises of the Diaper Genie, and perfecting your condolatory head tilts for all those you left behind in singlehood.

After finishing my sandwich and my pondering, I waved across the room to my former classmate as she left. I am happy for her, and truly do hope that the grass is greener on her side of the fence. I would be lying if I did not say that I wish I was her. But on that night, I sat back down at my tiny table, with my ice cream cone in hand and though, you know I might just have another, for no one will be seeing me naked tonight. Let's hear three cheers for me as I strive to enjoy my singlehood.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Living Behind Screens

My first Fourth of July back in Vegas was rather low-key but enjoyable. Climbing on to a roof, we had a 360 degree view of everything from Green Valley Ranch to South Point Station to the Strip to the amazing display of questionable legality from the people across the street. Everything from the burst of dazzling lights, to the shimmer of fading glory, to the smell of sulfur that filled my nostrils was so reminiscent of childhood summers and stock American experience that I wanted to capture the moments and squirrel them away forever. I have been a tad gun shy with my camera, as of late, after the realization that it is not appreciated here as it was in Austin, but felt the urge and pulled it out tonight. Viewing the fireworks, filtered through the tiny digital screen, the situation struck me as ironic. Ironic because I was missing the beauty of the moment by trying to capture it.

I was no longer standing there, feeling the warm breeze wash over my legs or marveling at the majesty of the red burst set against blue-black, star strewn sky. I was fussing over settings, light gradients, and zoom qualities. Looking back at what I captured was nothing compared to the memory I could have made had I just stood there and been checked into the moment. I think it is time that each of us should ponder how what happens on the screens in our lives have begun to push aside and supersede the things that go on in the actual, nondigital world that surrounds us.

The screens we yearn to possess, have instead begun to possess us. In grocery stores and shopping malls all I see are kids, teens and adults walking with their faces straight down, all but oblivious to their immediate surroundings, fixated instead on the screens they hold in their palms. They smile, as if at a human being, while ignoring the sea of living people around them. Isolated in a crowd, they tap away at the tiny keyboard.

I am no less guilty of this. For the moment I wake to the time I lay my head upon the pillow, my phone is never more than three feet from me. I have the same crick in my neck from the straight down stare. I have my headphones in ever time I shop. I don't think I have heard a store employee greet me since the day I bought my first iPod. The last four days has shown me how far the problem extends. My new iPhone manifest a glitch in the hardware and became unpredictable. I could not text message, or check Facebook, or read emails. I felt like a heroine addict with an unreliable dealer. Is this an addiction, or merely the result of our ever shrinking attention span? Perhaps it is both.

Regardless, I cannot go anywhere without my phone. I am sure I am not the only one who has experienced this in the past. You leave home to go to dinner or to Starbucks or the movies, but once you arrive, you realize, to your horror, that you have somehow forgotten your phone. You are inadvertently phoneless, screenless, helpless. What is this? You start to feel vaguely jittery. You feel untethered and unreachable. You briefly consider actually leaving to go home to go your phone. How will you pass the time while the guy in front of you orders to most complicated coffee in the world? Will you really have to be checked in while you zig-zag your way through the grocery store? Will you have to make actual dinner conversation with your co-diner before the food comes? You are only going to be away from it for two hours, at most, yet you are going through classic withdrawal symptoms.

It is hard to remember, but we all seemed to get along pretty well in the days before the screens invaded our lives. We navigated life rather efficiently when we knew that once we left the house, no one would be able to reach us until we came back. We did not need constant connectability, the ability to be reachable at all time. We did not require ceaseless digital bombardment. Had it been offered all at once, instead of a gradual change to the world at large, we probably would have rejected it outright, like a first free taste of heroin.

Screens are in our lives everywhere; TV, movies, computers, phone, cameras, video games, etc. While we will never get away from them, we can for just a moment look away and experience our own lives in full, HD, 3-D color. Go ahead, try it. Look away from this screen. Look around you, out the window or across the room or down the street. Isn't it something? It looks so real, you half-believe you can touch it.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Serial Monogamist

I love books. Not the way you love Chinese food or the feeling of sand between your toes. Our intercourse is that of lovers. Each new affair begins differently: some take-off with the excitement and flush of new love; some begin long and languid, making me unsure and self-conscious. As our liaison progresses, my world becomes completely consumed by him. It is hard to distinguish where he ends and I begin. Daily thoughts run over his themes and characters as if they were intimate curves. I walk through my day in a fog; replaying his words or clever turn of phrase from the night before. His words upon my lips, soft and familiar. As I lay my head down behind my eyes I rush forward to peer down the road and attempt to see where our story is going. Sometimes the path is clear, and the thrill is in the travel, but others the way is obscured. So many possibilities swarm and mill about that the joy is in exploring each in turn. Opening his pages, he takes me further and further down his road, into his world.

But then, alas, as all things in my life, this too must end. No matter what kind of relationship we had, there will be the day when my fingers dance upon the last page. This moment is always bittersweet. It is the culmination of the thousands and thousands of words that proceed; all questions are answered, all sub-plots resolved, the length of the road seen. It leaves me feeling completed and whole Although, it is also the moment that I have to say good-bye, good-bye to his protagonist that is as familiar as actual friends, the moment I must leave his vivid world, the moment our interlude ends. Hollow and empty, he has given me all he can. He no longer hold any secrets or mysteries for me to rejoice in discovering. Our time together has ended, but the love I felt while between his pages will always be with me; it is part of me.

Literature pulses through my veins and pervades my soul. Nothing can replace Vladimir Nabokov lamenting, "Lolita, Lolita"; hearing his need and desperation in that one word. John Steinbeck taught me that there is beauty in even a turtle crossing a dust covered road. Who can not read Ernest Hemingway and taste the sea in their mouth? Each book falls into my past and alters my course forward. Each time I gain new words to express all the depth of my person or a different way of looking all that surrounds me. Each washes over my brain like a single wave washing over quartz, until their cumulative affect has left something entirely different from what was once there. With an eye facing forward, the question becomes whom will I take to bed with me tonight? Will it be Irvin, or Joyce, or perhaps will I once again rendezvous to Orwell? One can never tell, that is the fun in being a serial monogamist.