Category Archives: silly

Why do we write?

I recently found my Advanced Fiction class notebook, from my days as a Center for Talented Youth student circa summer 2000-2001. This is straight from the first page (with “why do we write?” written in giant bubble handwriting at the top, highlighted in yellow):

Some people write because they feel like they have
something despretly important to say, something worth listening to.
Some people use writing as a kind of catharsis, like an exorcism of
their demons, so to speak. That whole idea of getting all your pains
and sorrows down on paper so that way you won’t worry about them
anymore, or at least feel like you’ve accomplished something. Not
only your pains and sorrows but your gripes, opinions, complains,
philosophy, etc… I think of
writing as a kind of reflection of the author, and since the author is
a reflection of the culture & values that she/he is currently living in,
then their writing becomes an important demonstration of those
things as wells. I really kick the fantasy around in my head of
aliens descending upon the earth as it lays in apocalyptic ruins and
finding a battered, burnt copy of The Catcher in the Rye or something.
They’ll be like Huh huh, them humans sure do talk purdy.

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The Great Redwall Reread

OK… I can’t say that I am particularly proud of this… but as of yesterday I’ve officially purchased and reread 7 Redwall books on my kindle, a much-beloved and favorite series among myself and my siblings during our childhood. I’ve been using this mad spending habit as a motivational treat since April-ish, in order to help me finish important tasks. I still have a couple of things I need to do before leaving for the States on June 21st (!!), like, you know, PACK, get my room ready for the person who’s renting it for the summer, type up and print cat-sitting instructions, print ALL OF THE TICKETS (including the New York-D.C. bus ticket on the oh-so-classily named Peter Pan bus line–their yelp page is one long scroll of one-star reviews. GONNA BE FUN). But for the most part, my first year of PhD-dum is over. That doesn’t mean I’m not going to find an excuse to buy Book 8 though (The Pearls of Lutra, FYI).

So, onto my great Redwall recap, because why the hell not? I tried explaining the plot of these books to one of my marathon buddies in Edinburgh: it’s about, like, these mice? And moles and otters and other English woodland animals? And like how they live in this medieval warring society with a lot of battlin’ and feastin’? His facial expression as he stared incomprehensibly back at me is…. maybe one of the most embarrassing things that’s ever happened to me. BUT WHATEVER! For me (especially lately), kiddie stuff is the ultimate comfort food. A calm, steady reassuring refuge. An escape from all the horrors and terrors that is everyday Herzogian adult life.


Best one for newbies to read- Redwall was the first book to be published in the 21-book series and is probably still the best place to start. It’s a little different from the others–it contains the only reference to human civilization (via the mention of a town, as well as dogs and barns), as well as the only references to something remotely resembling a concept of religion (the Dark Forest and “Hellgates”–man, I need to start walking around quietly hissing “hellgates” to myself more often). It’s got a classic story arch–main character starts out very naive, sheltered, and inexperienced, has to leave his home on an archetypal quest in order to come back and fulfill his destiny. Good stuff.


Most intenso: Martin the Warrior, in which one of the main characters (and love interest at that!) dies tragically near the end. I was really freaked out as a kid when this happened. When I told my sister in a solemn voice she refused to believe it, and re-reading it this time around I was still struck by how intense it must have been for us. Like, a lot of people (um, animals) tend to die throughout this series, but this particular character actually has point-of-view paragraphs and stuff–that is to say, she is treated as  the kind of main character who in any of the other books would have been automatically guaranteed safety. It makes what happens in the end almost a Ned Stark-level of shock. For this reason, Martin the Warrior is probably the most potentially traumatizing for young fans.


Most trippy as fuq: The Bellmaker–wow, is this one ever weird. It probably contained the most WTF? moments for me as a young fan when I first read it. For example, there’s a mole who doesn’t talk in the classic mole accent that all the moles in the other books tend to have. There’s also a searat who turns out to be a good guy–this is a BIG DEAL because this is no Game of Thrones grey world. No, in the Redwall universe things are VERY black and white and your integrity as a person is defined by your species–like if you’re a stoat, fox, rat, or weasel, you’re bad, if you’re a mouse, otter, badger, squirrel or mole, you’re good. What a way to live. Additionally, if you’re a vole, shrew or dormouse you’re kind of a dumbass, and if you’re a bird you speak in a weird accent that is incredibly tedious to read and which to be honest I always tend to just skim. Anyway, it’s definitely a worldview that would potentially be called Racist on tumblr (Specieist?) or maybe even Classist (so you’re doomed to never rise above the position you were born into?). It’s also unfortunately a trait that eventually made these books become a bit tedious for me to read as a young’un–there was just like NO FLEXIBILITY EVER for this to change. That’s what makes the good-guy searat in The Bellmaker all the more notable, as he is such an anomaly.

It’s also worth noting that this book has two characters afflicted by the Bloodwrath in the most badass way. In the Redwall universe, the Bloodwrath is a condition in which your eyes turn blood-red and you transform into an INTENSE  UNSTOPPABLE KILLING MACHINE. This is still an accurate description of what happens to me when I bike all the way to the library and discover that I have forgotten to bring my overdue books.


My personal sentimental favorite- Mossflower. This was the first Redwall book I ever read, sitting on a plane next to my sister on a super long flight to… somewhere, who knows where, California or England or maybe even back home to Colombia. But yeah, she was reading Redwall and we would keep pausing from reading every once in a while to give each other spoiler-free updates about what was happening in each others’ volumes–we were so engrossed and excited! Like Redwall, as a standalone book Mossflower also works very well–there’s puzzles and riddles, battles, epic journeys, searat attacks, badger lords building magical swords out of meteorite rock in a badass volcano fortress, bat cameos… again, good stuff.

I think that’s about as much I can say about this series without beginning to sound truly demented. But it’s worth mentioning some of the questions that came up to me while rereading these–like, are the mice all vegan? How do they make all the “meadowcream” and stuff that they eat during their huge feasts? Is it like vegan cream? How does that work? How do they make cheese? Do they have access to cows? How come every time there’s a battle, all these woodland creatures who previously had like no fighting experience suddenly become capable of effortlessly killing dozens of vermin without getting injured or killed themselves?

Oh well, what are you gonna do. If I have kids I am definitely going to make sure there’s copies of this series in the house–all of them would be too much, but definitely the first seven or eight. Here’s to early 90’s nostalgia!



Filed under books, review, silly

welcome to england–fight fight fight!

I am in England. OMG!!!

I am obviously really excited and happy to be here in the good old UK. It’s a good feeling. I love my flat and its convenient location close to the university (I still wanna get a bike, though: 5 minute bike ride vs. 15 minute walk? BIKE FTW). So far I am digging my housemates, both guys in law school, one from China and the other from Taiwan. One of them just came in and gave me a present–a Beijing Olympics key chain!! AWWW! They’re both leaving in the next two days to go traveling for the next week, which doesn’t bother me at all. Sometimes it boggles my mind to think about how I almost prefer being by myself these days–I’m just so used to it. That being said, I know that I’m a very social person and that it’s fairly easy for me to make friends, which is why I’m not freaking out about having so much time by myself before the rest of the peeps in my program get here.

Ahhh!!! England!!!! Of course the very first thing I unpacked were my books (I packed too many, as per usual). I just had the best time this morning, walking around campus (I didn’t even mind being lost!), wandering into the bookstore and fingering all the titles, lovingly fondling all the second-hand books on sale on the tables outside (the man in charge said he comes by Monday and Thursday, reminding me of that old dude I bought Howl from in front of the Paradox coffee shop back at Reed). I came thisclose to buying the new Ali Smith novel, The Tin Drum, Underworld and Wise Children (all books I’ve been meaning to read for aaaaages), but I stopped myself because I felt guilty about spending the money. To be honest it probably would have only ended up being ten pounds, which is likely less than what my movie ticket will be tomorrow if I decide to go see Anna Karenina. Whatever, he’ll be back on Monday.

I also did some work today. It is SO HARD when I edit my fiction to not be aware of its flaws, how juvenile and developing my voice still sounds to me. I still don’t sound like a “polished” writer to myself, like Jonathan Franzen or even Bolaño or whatever, in which every word in the story is filled with purpose and drive and meaning and everything is just tauntly woven together and seemingly fits perfectly together. BUT WHATEVER!! I am just trying to remember the words that Goenka kept repeating over and over again at the meditation retreat, in his old man Indian accent: paaaatiently but persistently, patiently but persistently. You are bound to be successful, bound to be successful.

So this is just to say that I DON’T GIVE A FLYING **** IF MY STORIES KIND OF SUCK!!!!!! Because a) they are actually probably not as bad as I think they are (HELLO PERFECTIONIST VIRGO BRAIN), and b) I CAN ONLY GET “BETTER” (whatever THAT means) THROUGH TIME AND PRACTICE. Which is what I want to get out of this year. A lot of time and a lot of practice. Which is why I furiously wrote + edited all evening like a demon, like my life depended on it, because in a way, it kind of does. It made me feel like that character in the last paragraph of the “Out of Body” chapter in A Visit From the Goon Squad, the paragraph that made me want to read the rest of the book when I first read it in Tin House:

“You kneel beside her, breathing the familiar smell of Sasha’s sleep, whispering into her ear some mix of I’m sorry and I believe in you and I’ll always be near you, protecting you, and I will never leave you, I’ll be curled around your heart the rest of your life, until the water pressing my shoulders and chest crushes me awake and I hear Sasha screaming into my face: Fight! Fight! Fight!”

I also want to remember the advice that the University of Texas-San Marcos creative writing professor gave me, one of my co-workers at Berkeley this summer: “Submit things that you think kind of suck.” Truer words never spoken.

So I believe in myself. WATCH OUT ENGLAND, I’M GONNA KICK SOME ASS. I think maybe that’s why I’ve been so obsessed with Kanye West’s and Jay-Z’s Watch the Throne lately. I told my sister earlier today that when I hear their songs, I like to pretend that it’s my self-esteem talking, giving me a much-needed boost and FIGHT-FIGHT-FIGHT mentality:

Select best quotes for self-esteem boosting include the following:
– Photo shoot fresh, looking like wealth, I’m ’bout to call the paparazzi on myself!
– Everything’s for sale, I got 5 passports I’m never going to jail!!!
– Lord, please let them accept the things they can’t change, and pray that all of their pain be champagne.

That’s enough for now. I’ll end with a quote from Onetti:

Escribirá porque sí, porque no tendrá más remedio que hacerlo, porque es su vicio, su pasión y su desgracia. / A writer will write just because; because he or she has no other option; because it’s their vice, their passion and their misfortune.

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I have a tumblr now!

Check it out.

I am in Berkeley and have been here for the past three weeks for my summer job, which is now ending in three days. A lot has been going on and I’ve been learning a ton. That’s all I feel capable of saying for now. I will write here again, soon.

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Happy World Book Day!

I’m a sucker for any kind of book meme floating around on the internets.

Books I’m Reading:

  • The Feast of the Goat, by Mario Vargas Llosa. I’m on Chapter 3 and I’m only just getting into it.

The last book I finished was Carpe Jugulum by Terry Pratchett.

Book I’m Writing: Uhh not really doing that right now. I’m trying to finish this short story about this mad scientist who teaches volunteer classes for kids at a local community center, but it’s been a tough slog despite the encouraging words from my writing group. I’ve also been writing a lot of random things about childhood in Colombia.

I really would really LIKE to write a novel one day, not necessarily about Colombia. I don’t really know what it would be about. In high school I had a lot of ideas for novels. I kept a list of them, the way you would keep a list of R.E.M. or Tori Amos albums.

I don’t know if I would ever be able to write a historical kind of novel like Feast of the Goat, even though I have a LOT of respect for that kind of heavy, research-intensive writing.

Some ideas I have had for novels, at one point or another:

– a post-apocalyptic story set in rural South America, in which a bunch of little kids run around and are really dirty.

– a collection of linked short stories about kids growing up in Colombia or Mexico (sounds very similar to above)

– an epic Umberto Eco-esque novel about Lazzarro Spallanzani, a 13th-century biologist (this might be more akin to historical fantasy like the movie “Amadeus” as opposed to something super historically rigid). I just love that name!

– I have always wanted to write something about Irish immigrants in Central or South America. I just think the Irish are really cool.

– A year or two ago my sister bought everyone in my family all these kidnapping books, written by these survivors of FARC kidnappings, and she talked a lot about how interesting she found captivity narratives. I would love to write a captivity narrative. I don’t know what it would be about or what it would be like–the phrase “captivity narrative” is as far as I have gotten.

– I would love to move to Argentina, Uruguay and/or Chile, live there and get a feel for the places, and then write a book about book-loving detectives, as a homage to Piglia, Onetti, Bolaño and Borges.

– A novel about my Portuguese grandfather, his fisherman ancestry in the Azores, his asthmatic childhood in Connecticut and his Hollywood aspirations.

Book I Love Most: Uy-uy-uy. Anne Tyler’s Saint Maybe never fails to make me feel not sad about the world. Infinite Jest is inspiring. “Hamlet” is incomparable. David Lodge’s Therapy is unbeatable comfort foodI feel more ambivalent about Garcia Marquez now than I did in high school but I think Cien Años de Soledad will never be a book that I don’t recommend to people. I think more than anything else, these are the works I turn to for comfort again and again and again, or if I want to remind myself what literature is capable of.

Last Book I Received As A Gift: Mmm I guess the books I got for Christmas–Ulysses, Philip K. Dick’s Exegesis. I bought myself The Hunger Games so maybe that counts as a gift.

Last Book I Gave As A Gift: I guess all those cookbooks to my little bro, or Wolf Hall and Wintering: A Novel of Sylvia Plath to my mom, and The Marriage Plot to my sis.

Nearest Book: The Feast of the Goat, sitting right next to me for a bedtime read (it’s late!!). The other nearest book to me is the Tibetan Book of Yoga, another gift.

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Jurassic Park Reflections

Jurassic Park is the first adult novel I can remember reading. I mean REALLY reading, as in from cover to cover.

The first novel I can remember flipping through was Little House on the Prairie. I was young enough (three? Four?) that I didn’t understand all the words yet, so I made up the story as I went along, looking at the pictures. I remember one picture, in the first chapter, of Laura running through the woods while Ma looks into a hole in a tree, both of them surrounded by grey grainy dots. I think they were smoking a pig, but back then for me it became a scene of them being attacked by killer murderous bees (I’d confused the smoke for bees in the picture, obviously).

There are two other Big People novels I can remember looking through. One was Pride and Prejudice, pulled from its dusty, musty-smelling place out of my mother’s bookshelf, where it stood proudly with its creased spine alongside all her D.H. Lawrence and Dickens opuses. I didn’t understand a word of what was going on, but I remember being fascinated by the orange Penguin Classic cover, and just the words, pages and pages of words in their tiny grey font! What were they saying? So different from my beloved Roald Dahl novels or The Adventures of Tintin! The other novel I remember looking through was The Color Purple. Its opening first sentences, referring to fathers and rape (a word that I didn’t fully understand, but nevertheless still sensed to be “bad”), scared me so bad I went out into the garden shed at our house in England and hid it there. Years later I went back in to check to see if it was still there, and it was, dusty and cobwebby and the pages stuck together as though they’d been glued.

I must have been something like five or six years old when I read Jurassic Park, since the book jacket claims its publishing date as 1990. I pulled it out of the bookshelves at the Baptist expat church we used to attend (I remember the long car rides to get there, up the hills into the bumpy Northern part of Cali, always made me horribly carsick. It didn’t help that we always went to Dunkin Doughnuts as soon as church service was over). The book’s cover, with its stark black bony dinosaur, looked exciting and promising enough to make my heart thump in eager anticipation. Apart from introducing me to DNA, this was also the novel that taught me to swear (it’s pretty surprising, retrospectively, that it doesn’t contain a single F-bomb). I remember my sister getting in trouble for asking my little brother What the hell are you talking about? And me teaching our friends at recess how to use Jesus Christ! as a profanity—I have the Ed Regis awaiting the T-Rex in the car scene to thank for that.

For these beloved memories as well as others, Jurassic Park will always hold a sentimental place in my heart. I re-watched the movie last night with some friends and was pumping my fist in the air and shouting out “YES!” after countless scenes. Best of all is the part when the T-Rex is roaring with a dead velociraptor and the fossil bones of its long-dead ancestors at its feet, while a sign flutters down from a ceiling that says WHEN DINOSAURS RULED THE EARTH. What else can one say in response to such a gem of a scene except “Yes”!!!

One of the things I really liked about Jurassic Park (and still like!) is the way it blends fascinating informational passages about science with exciting genre-fiction type action and suspense. My favorite passages in the book as a youngster were the rockstar mathematician’s long rants while high on morphine and explanations of chaos theory—he truly is the best character, no wonder Crichton brought him back from the dead for the sequel. I really love books that make me feel like I’m drowning in knowledge or like my head is spinning with information: Umberto Eco’s The Island of the Day Before is another good example of this kind of knowledge-immersive novel (on the flip side, his Foucault’s Pendullum is SO information packed it’s like a sandwich that’s crammed with too many ingredients; I’ve never been able to finish it). For a while I thought I wanted to be a biologist, and I wonder now if books like Jurassic Park had something to do with that, as crazy as it sounds. It was fiction that made science interesting to me. I found this magic in brief flashes in my biology textbooks, but it was unfortunately never attainable during the long and tedious lab sessions (which is probably for the best; I would be SO unhappy right now if I were stuck working in labs all day!). My biology love lives on though; I would really love to write a historical fiction novel one day about medieval scientists in the 16th and 17th centuries, but only if I could do it in a vaguely modern style (a la Amadeus, with all my monk scientists talking like stoned, sassy hippies).

Jurassic Park is also sentimental to me because it’s like a talisman that carries through time. Haha, that makes it sound like one of the Horucruxes from the Harry Potter series, but whatever. JP reminds me that I’ve always been a reader and I always will be one. It’s a comforting though to hold on to, that no matter what happens in life, I have this to depend on: I am a reader, a writer, a book lover. I love socializing, activity, talking with people and adventuring, but at my heart’s core what I really want to do at the end of the day is hide away from the crowds and stick my nose into Philip K. Dick’s Dr. Bloodmoney.

I recognize other readers I run into like kindred spirits. It’s like a Gaydar. For example, during homework help hour at my job, I always like to check in with J. and his daily progress through Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games series. “I’ve finished the first one!” he told me last week, and I pressed my hands over my ears pleadingly. “Don’t spoil it for me!” I really need to pay my library fines so that I can place them on hold, read them and then have a conversation with him about it… God knows if there’s anybody else in his life who is willing to talk to him about books, you know? Hopefully there is…

I also love working with P., so eccentric and tormented by his math homework from his accelerated program at school. “Gah!” he scowls, reading the word problems. “That’s RETARDED.” He always gives me little sideways hugs with his skinny little arms, and it’s always surprising for me to see him in the gym, running and sweaty and shouting and throwing squishy white foam balls at other kids’ heads: it just seems like such a dissonant, contrasting environment, for a kid that I know to be so wicked smart and nerdy. Good for him, I guess, getting both the jock and the book thang down.

So yeah, I recognize myself in these kids as my peers, my descendants. A similar act of recognition happened to me yesterday, at our service project community field trip. At one point, R. (one particularly feisty little girl) disappeared along with J.D. (a kid who’s of our biggest characters). I found them lurking among the trees by the blue plastic portapotties, frowning intensely into the underbrush. “Come on guys,” I said. “Thirty minutes left. Let’s give it all we’ve got. Tear that mean ol’ blackberry off those pear trees.”

“I saw,” R. whispered huskily, “something black. Darting among the trees over there.”

I said something lame about werewolves not coming out among the daylight. “But look at those crosses,” R. said. “Look.” She pointed at one, two, three: I looked and saw some random planks of wood propped up against each other among the trees; remnants of some long ago abandoned gardening project, probably. To me they looked like unfinished chicken coops.

I was sort of at a loss of words of how to reply to her. The last thing I wanted to tell her was Oh, that’s nothing, don’t be silly. That’s not REALLY a graveyard. The last thing I want to do is look a child in the eye and tell them, It’s not what you think it is. It’s just this other mundane, boring, wordly thing. Don’t let your imagination carry you away. It was, like, a kid using her imagination! Right in front of me! Who was I to tell her not to use it? I kind of wanted to cry a little, actually (Wow, I really AM getting horribly mushy and soft in the middle! Like all those tomatoes rotting on our front porch banister!).

Anyway, I somehow managed to usher both her and the silent wide-eyed J.D. back to our worksite. But it stuck with me. I love that idea, that you can look at a bunch of crappy moldy planks of wood in a forest and see a graveyard. I did the same thing when I was her age. I do the same thing, still. I look at R. and her werewolf and graveyard visions, and J. hunched over his copy of The Hunger Games, and P. frowning and yelling over his math problems, and I think, These are my people. These kids may not recognize me yet, but I definitely recognize them. We are one and the same. Thinkers, dreamers, inventors of stuff that isn’t really there, head constantly in the clouds and too smart for our own damn good.

I don’t really know how to end this entry now. In my yoga class the other day the teacher talked a little bit about this quote from Joseph Campbell:

People say that what we’re all seeking is a meaning for life. I don’t think that’s what we’re really seeking. I think what we’re seeking is an experience of being alive, so that our life experiences on the purely physical plane will have resonance within our own innermost being and reality, so that we actually feel the rapture of being alive. That’s what it’s all finally about.

“An experience of being alive.” I like that. I don’t really know how to connect that to anything that’s been said before, but I still like it.

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The Unwanted

I went to Powell’s today to sell some books, not just as part of my Eternal Quest to Declutter My Room, but also to get some badly needed cash. I ended up getting about $45–$40 of which I then had to promptly use to re-fuel my car. What a painful thought, books for oil. What a brutal economy.

Anyway. I still ended up with quite a few books leftover–in my head I’m thinking of them as The Unwanted Books, both by me and by Powell’s. Who will take them? What will happen to them? What happens to you if you are an Unwanted Book? It seems like a very sad fate to me. Here is a list, for record-keeping’s sake:

The Crying Lot of 49 (Thomas Pyncon– and yet the copy of V that a termite had burrowed through was accepted!)
Various Antidotes (Joanna Scott)
Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff for Teens: Simple Ways to Keep Your Cool in Stressful Times (Richard Carlson, Ph.D)
The Tibetan Art of Postive Thinking: Skillful Thought for Successful Living (Christopher Hansard)
Eat. Shop. Portland
Fronteras No Mas: Towards Social Justice at the U.S.-Mexico Border
(Kathleen Staudt and Irasema Coronado)
Step-by-Step to Organic Vegetable Growing (Samuel Ogden)
Inhuman Bondage: the Rise and Fall of Slavery in the New World (David Brion Davis)
The Three Pillars of Zen (Roshi Philip Kapleau)
The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens (Sean Covey)
Science Fiction (Adam Roberts) — left over from high school senior year project. Haha! It’s interested to see what passages I highlighted, in my cheery bright green marker.
Shakespeare: The World as a Stage (Bill Bryson) — I have been trying to sell this book to Powell’s for years with no avail; they are just not interested!!
The Celestine Prophecy: An Adventure (James Redfield) — beat-up high school copy of my brother’s. Never read it. “An Ishmael wannabe,” I remember my brother cooly remarking.
All That the Rain Promises and More: A Hip Pocket Guide to Western Mushrooms (David Arora)
The Woman Warrior (Maxine Hong Kingston) — another book Powells has always steadfastedly refused to buy from me for years
The Town (William Faulkner)
Procrastination: Why You Do It, What To Do About It (Jane B. Burka, Ph.D, Lenora M. Yuen, Ph.D)

Seems like self-help books really got the smackdown.

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A List of Things I Haven’t Written About Yet

–       the yellow butterfly eggs we always found on the swing set

–       the noise my nanny’s sandals made when she ran through the house

–       the way I was afraid my stuffed animals would come to life and kill me, so I created a rotating schedule so that I could sleep with a different one every night, so that none of them would fall into a insane jealous murdering rage from being neglected. I had about three weeks worth of stuffed animals to go through.

–      living in a house full of ghosts

–       the aliens are coming and you watch the ship descend into your swimming pool

–       the way I used to shoplift small yellow potatoes from the mall when I was young

–        the family in Tijuana that lived in the wooden shack by the basketball court

–       a recipe. I’ve never written a recipe.

–       a fake autobiography of a 13th-century biologist

I have a fantasy of one day writing an epic Umberto Eco-esque book about this man, Lazzaro Spallanzani, whose name and story I have never forgotten from my freshman year Biology 101 Class.

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Writer’s Block: My Word

If you could have the writing ability of one author, who would you choose, and why? Would you exchange writing styles permanently?

Wow, good question. It’s interesting because as much as I admire the writing styles of some of my favorite authors (like Faulkner or Onetti), I would DEFINITELY never want to write like them. I dunno… it just feels like something very weighty and painful, to be able to write like a genius, you know?

Overall I prefer authors whose writing styles could be described as very simple, almost basic, as opposed to ornate or fancy. I’ve already said that if I could write like any author, it would be like Anne Tyler, namely for the loving and vivid characterizations in her novels. Give me Murakami for his descriptions of food, and Bolaño for his moments of insight, realization and description. Give me Tolstoy for his realism and his kindness towards his characters. Flannery O’Connor has some killer plot twists but I think I’d stop there. Give me Vonnegut for humor (a characteristic sorely lacking in most fiction). Give me Ali Smith for creativity (drawing the line at her more post-modern stories, which I enjoy but do not wish to emulate), and Melissa Banks for honesty. Give me “Mrs. Dalloway”‘s poetry and beauty. (Wow, this is turning into an ode to books and authors I love in general.) And finally for overall writing style, give me George Orwell–you can’t fail there with diction, word choice, clarity and overall “voice” of the writing.

And of course I would never exchange writing styles. What would be the point? Because then it wouldn’t be mine anymore!

Also, here’s a fascinating article on “Borges y yo,” my favorite Borges short story. The comment at the end left me wondering whether or not it was Borgesian-styled fiction–I honestly couldn’t tell. The link at the bottom to another piece by the author, Notes Towards the Memoirs of a Book Thief, is also excellent and very Arlt-esque. The idea of inscribing a book to oneself before stealing it is especially ingenious. The only book I ever remember stealing myself was “Saint Maybe,” but I might even be remembering that wrong, it could have been my sister who stole it. I definitely stole the Collected Poems of Sylvia Plath. Sorry, Colegio Bolivar library. Guilty as charged. We were the only ones who ever checked it out anyway.

Some other interesting articles related to books and writing I’ve stumbled upon lately, via the new Glory in my life that is Google Reader:

  • Ten Rules for Writing Fiction – I like Elmore Leonard’s, Roddy Dole’s, Geoff Dyer’s and Anne Enright’s the best. I especially like this bit: writing is all about ­perseverance. You’ve got to stick at it. In my 30s I used to go to the gym even though I hated it. The purpose of ­going to the gym was to postpone the day when I would stop going. That’s what writing is to me: a way of ­postponing the day when I won’t do it any more, the day when I will sink into a depression so profound it will be indistinguishable from perfect bliss.
  • More good writing advice from A Reader’s Advice to Writers

In other news:
– Next week is technically my last at the office, because I’m leaving next Friday to fly to Cali and visit my mummy, the Princess and whatever other pets may still be lounging around.
– I took a day off from the office yesterday because of tummy troubles and it was a blissful godsend.
– Today has been blissful as well: Corey and I watched Big Fish (a better movie than I remembered, surprisingly touching and Quixote-esque) in the morning and went to the beautiful botanical garden in the afternoon, which was HUGE. There were a ton of animals like ducks (<3), geese and enough tortoises to make you slightly alarmed. At the snack stand, we got to see a squirrel steal a lollipop from the store, and a tortoise eat the runny black poo that dropped out of a gosling’s butt. Hilarious, memorable stuff.
– Now we’re going to go out to dinner to a cevicheria :) Not that many days left here in Bucaramanga… always moving, always heading out somewhere, to something

home, now
going my way
going to something
to something
to something…

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Filed under colombia, Dear Diary, silly

More Island Time

You’re packing your bag for that other desert island—the one with no electricity—what 5 books do you take with you?

As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner — it’s hard to imagine myself going somewhere long term without taking this book with me. I’ve read it so many times though, that I’m tempted to just take Absalom, Absalom! instead.
Sacred Hunger by Barry Unsworth — I could reread this book again and again and always discover something new. Extraordinarily powerful re: the truth of human nature. Great historical fiction. Bonus points for being long.
Therapy by David Lodge — the ultimate comfort food, the book I can reread again and again and again and it will still make me laugh. Melissa Banks’ The Wonder Spot is a very close second.
Ulysses by James Joyce — a desert island would be the perfect chance to actually finish this thing.
Hamlet — to read aloud to myself.

I really really wanna put Cien Años de Soledad but again, read it so many times… and what about Onetti? Most of his stuff is so short though. OH OH a desert island would be the perfect opportunity to read *every* piece in the *complete* works of Borges! (poetry, essays, letters… everything. And, and, and–and Orwell! And Kafka! Oh, books.

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Filed under books, lists, silly