cricketmuse

a writer's journey as a reader

Author Spotlight: Yann Martel


It’s encouraging to me as a writer when an author overcomes the odds and publishes a book of lasting impact. Yann Martel accomplished this with Life of Pi.


Admittedly, I ignored the book on the premise of the impossibility of plot–a tiger, a boy, a lifeboat, and survival. Nope, not plausible.

There lies the irony. 

Martel’s novel is built upon the premise of impossibility, of reading a story fraught with fantastical aspects, being given a more reasonable story, and making a decision which is the one to believe. Ambiguity can be a powerful tool in the hands of a skilled writer. That’s why stories such as Saki’s “The Interlopers” still intrigue us. And what about Inception’s ending? We want answers, yet answers in life aren’t always so easily found or understood.

The book’s ending is a stickler for those who want clean closure to their reading. Martel bumps that paradigm of tidiness and keeps his readers working. Wanting to know what the meaning of “And so it is with God” gets people scurrying to to Internet in hopes for answers: Sparknotes, Shmoop, and even Quora

I dabble in Quora and had forgotten I had written an answer to the request of “What does the ending mean?” *embarrassing*

There is purposeful ambiguity in the ending. We seek answers to life’s difficult questions, and one of the biggest questions people desire an answer for concerns faith. Does God exist? Why do bad things happen to good people? Why does God allow evil and illness to exist? These are some of the faith questions that people struggle with. The ending offers the only possible answer: it is our interpretation. The tiger story seems incredible, impossible, surreal even. The human story is brutal, shocking, more believable. Interestingly enough, the insurance investigators wanted a story they could take with them so they would not be considered fools, this would be the human story; however, the insurance report reveals the note of how Pi survived his ordeal with a Bengal tiger. The insurance investigators wanted facts, to hold on to reason, yet in the end they acknowledged the impossible. And so it is with God—we search for the truth, we want to see with our eyes, and will accept what we feel in our heart. All things are possible with God. I think this is the meaning of the ending: see with your eyes, believe with your heart.

I just recently re-watched the film adaptation and I am again mesmerized by the absolute art of its totality–the directing, editing, cinematography, pacing, acting, special effects. The film is an emotional experience. The ending line so much more poignant having experienced the visual ordeal of Pi’s experience. I reread the novel as a reminder the adaptation is the echo, a brilliant one, of the original story. 

I plan on reading Martel’s other novels as well. I’m especially intrigued with his letters to the Canadian prime minister, which revolves around Martel sending the governmental leader over a hundred books as a means of establishing the importance of creativity.

Conversation Point: What does the Life of Pi’s ending mean to you?

Why We Say: #27


Stoolies, stories, and horsies are on the agenda today.

STOOL PIGEONS

Unless you’re a fan of James Cagney movies the expression “Stool Pigeon” might not invoke much interest. However, should you tune in some night where a thug is about to give up one of his own you can better understand why Cagney is unhappy with the discovery of a “stoolie” in his midst.

Back in the day when wild pigeons were more on the hunter’s agenda, they used a tactic of tying a captured pigeon to a stool near a net. As it fluttered about in hopes of escape, it would catch the attention of other pigeons who then were lured into the nearby net. Thus, a stool pigeon is one who gives up his or her own after getting captured–usually by law enforcement, who are hunters, in a manner of speaking.


BUILDING STORIES

Buildings do tell stories, at least they did so more literally in long ago days of European design. Apparently murals or paintings were rendered on the different levels of the building, which often told a tale or story. Thus, each level of the building had its own story to tell.

I had always fancied the idea that buildings were like books and each level was its own chapter. So in actuality buildings would have to be anthologies instead of books of continuity if each floor were to be independently considered. Then again, when in the elevator, we go to the floor and not the story, although they are the same thing yet referred to differently. I think I have overthought this entry.
STRAIGHT UP HORSING AROUND

There are a few sayings involving horses. One is “straight from the horse’s mouth” and another is “never look a gift horse in the mouth.” Unless the horse is Mr. Ed, why be concerned?  Apparently, traders of shadowy practices, would “fix” up a horse to create the appearance of better condition–even a bit of paint might be part of the refurb process. However, a look in the horse’s mouth revealed the horse’s true age due to the wearing down of their teeth.

image:IMDB

Late Night: for Elizabeth Bishop


Teaching poetry to high school students often means becoming a student as I study to learn enough about the poem and the poet to actually teach it with clarity.

Most of our poems are pre-19th century, with a healthy scattering of 20th century. Among the modern poets I’ve come to appreciate is Elizabeth Bishop. My tribute to her:

Late at Night: for E. Bishop
2016 by C. Muse

The air lays warm
A sentry fan dutifully sways a rhythm 
Rising from bed to search for cool

Couch–second decision

Floor board creaks

Quick flick of kitchen light
Reveals nothing but mistaken thoughts

Drowsy wakefulness 
leads to
Scrolling searching somnolent advice

Suddenly a slice of darkness shades the window
Tension relaxes upon realization:

The local moose

Familiar with her fish and keys and even the Marvel of a stove
The moose ushers in sleep as it ambles across the road.


Check out Elizabeth Bishop and her poems here

 

First Folio Facts


2016 was a time of celebrating the 400 years since Shakespeare left us back in 1616. A plethora of celebratory activities and events transpired throughout the year–yet, his influence continues as we head into his 401st year of influence.

One of my highlights involved going to see the traveling First Folio show. Even though I had previously encountered a First Folio up close and very personal at my Folger Library Hamlet Academy adventure, I couldn’t resist being part of a greater event and traveled eight hours to experience the Folio hoopla with other Bard appreciators. Definitely worth the drive.

Lots of information abounded about the Bard, including this nifty fact sheet about the Folio provided by the Folger Shakespeare Library (www.folger.edu/ConnectED) They listed 21 facts; however, these are the top 7 in my eyes:

1.The First Folio was printed in 1623, seven years after Shakespeare’s death.

2. Shakespeare’s First Folio was the first folio ever published in England devoted exclusively to plays. Plays were not considered literature at that point in time.

3. The folio was put together by two of Shakespeare’s friends and acting colleagues–John Heminge and Henry Condell.

4. The First Folio contains 36 plays grouping them into comedies, histories, and tragedies.

5. Scholars generally believe that about 750 copies of the First Folio were printed in 1623.

6. A finished First Folio in a calfskin binding cost about one pound in 1623, which today roughly equals between $150-$200. In 2001, a First Folio sold at Christies for just over $6.1 million. The most recent sale was in 2006, when a First Folio sold at Sotheby’s for $5.2 million.

7. Since there haven’t been any manuscript copies of the plays written in Shakespeare’s handwriting, the First Folio is the closest thing we have to the plays as Shakespeare wrote them.

Image result for shakespeare images

“400 years?–Let every man be master of his time.”

image: biography.com

Review Round Up: December


December proved an excellent month for reading. Pushing to complete my Goodreads Challenge of 101 books for the year, I tried to finish off with books that had meaning and were enjoyable, which is actually what I try to do with all my reading. Here are my top picks for December:

The Tipping Point by Malcolm GladwellGladwell presents complicated sociological ideas in such a conversational manner that once the chapter is finished there is a satisfying acknowledgment of understanding what has been discussed. He presents the topic, performs a seemingly unrelated side excursion of information and then neatly links it back to the first topic. This explains his popularity. I’m looking forward to reading his other books as well.

The Girls' Book: How To Be The Best At EverythingA seriously fun book for 9-11 year olds who will enjoy the mixture of goofy and practical activities ranging from surviving being in a horror movie to making a friendship bracelet. Or it could be considered a present for thirty-something women who seriously have fun reading these nostalgia guides.

Raising an Original by Julie Lyles  Carr A mother of eight children, all who are featured prominently in the chapters, Carr weaves together advice, experience, anecdotes, scriptures, and a healthy dose of charming humor founded in likable reality. One aspect that is notably artful is her ability to take a metaphor, be it lace-making or her daddy’s signature blue dress shirt, and apply it to parenting techniques. Her book reads well. It’s engaging and thought-provoking.

You're the Cream in My Coffee by Jennifer Lamont LeoI knew Marjorie when she just a sweet little rough draft–so fun to come across her all grown up into a novel. Jenny’s novel took shape from idea to rough draft to publisher hunt to Hurrah! of acceptance in our writing group. I kind of feel like an aunt at a christening…
Marjorie is that small town girl who goes off to the city and makes changes. She changes her looks, her ambitions, her love interest. Chicago does that to the 1920’s kind of girl.
The humorous situations that Marjorie often finds herself in are reminiscent of a Shakespearean plot filled with misunderstandings, thwarted lovers, and secret identities. A well-researched novel that focuses on the alcohol issues related to Prohibition, WWI and PTSD, plus a look at the advent of the independent working girl, this is a “bees knees” of a debut read.

 

 

Happy Anniversary (to me)


Five years ago I jumped on the platform wagon upon the advice of an editor at a writing conference. Establishing a platform as a writer was, and seems to still be, advice that is to be embraced.

Five years ago, I thought it would be nanoseconds until my contract for my debut novel would be signed and my career launched.

As Shakespeare said:

 

image: Buzzfeed

I’m still dreaming and my dream of walking into a Barnes and Nobles and find my novel on the shelf (better yet–they are sold out). But I’m not asleep. I’m sending out manuscripts, still waiting for an editor, agent, publisher to sign me up, and my blog is now five years old. I’m okay with that. Okay, I’m fairly okay with that. I would rather have a novel published and celebrate that announcement on my five year old blog.

I’ve enjoyed writing a blog. I’m pleased that I’m keeping up with my posts and I haven’t had any lags of more than a week or so. The blog has changed, morphed, developed, and grown during its five years. If it were a child it would be potty trained, riding a bike, and getting ready for kindergarten. In dog years I think a five year old blog is roughly fifteen years old.

For fun, here is my first post. It’s been viewed a total of around 50 times since it’s debut in 2012, no likes, and 3 comments. I’m glad writing book reviews isn’t my day job. Since then I’ve decided writing about books is still my prime goal, but I’ve taken off the training wheels and I’m covering different topics as well, including the posting of my own writing such as poems, and short story tidbits.

I promised myself when I reached 1,000 followers I would sign up for the professional.com version of WordPress. I’ve surpassed that goal by a dozen or so. I just need to figure out what to name the professional launch. CricketMuse.com–hmm…

Quite Types of Funerals


Having gone through a year of loud public proclamations of accomplishments by a host of folk, got me thinking about how people are to be remembered once they pass from among us. It got me thinking how some people want to grab their glory now. There is a definite difference between a quiet funeral and quite a funeral:

image: Morgue File


Pigeons crown his statue, his duly noted acknowledgement, set in middletown square. He put the “I” in accomplishments. He gave generously his extra wealth to widows, orphans, and tax-deductible appreciatives. We knew because the newspaper told us so. Often. See page 3. His wife mourns him in stylish crepe, his children of status quo receive yet another scholarship in their father’s memoriam. The high school foyer plaque commemorates his sterling support of his alma mater class of ’52. A great whole will be felt in his passing. Much was given and much was gainfully benefitted. The piece that passes understanding is felt in regard to a man noted for his quite accomplishments.

Across town, in the smaller chapel, is the memorial for a man of lesser renown. In fact, the funeral director politely expressed his concern at the ratio of empty pews to attendees by frequent, albeit discreet, checks to his watch and neck stretches towards the door. Surely a man’s passing deserved more than a mere handful, he contemplated as he shuffled his notes. This man laid in the simple coffin at the front, closed at the widow’s request, did not rate column space beyond the discreet obituary notice. This man volunteered as a youth activity leader, though he had no children, walked shelter dogs every Saturday, and could be talked into helping out at the retirement home by reading to Mrs. Connelly or playing checkers with Bob Jaegers. He drove a fifteen year old Subaru, played golf with his nephew Paul, who remained in a thirteen year old mindset despite have grown into a 6’2 frame, and he bought his wife flowers every Friday, a tradition started and maintained through his forty-two year marriage. The funeral director did not have anything in his notes beyond: “Frank Peterson will be remembered for his quiet dedication to friends, family, and community. His accomplishments noted by those who knew him.” An embarrassing moment came, but quickly passed when his quick breakfast of reheated sausage patty sandwich gave him a wincing pain, causing him him to lose his place. As a result, he read out to the small gathering: “Frank Peterson will be remembered for his quiet accomplishments.” Realizing his error he hurriedly tagged on the part about being noted for dedication, etc. At the end of the service the director made sure to be extra kind and reassuring to Mr. Peterson’s widow.

 

Challenge Met


Done did it with 8 days to spare and 5 extra books.

That’s right–I achieved my goal of reading 101 books đź“š! And then some…

Goodreads sent me my stats a wee bit early when I had two more books to go. Their stat gnomes indicated a confidence in my ability that spurred me on to finish strong and well.

Your 2016 Year in Books

TOTALS: 101 books
27,046 pages
AVERAGE LENGTH: 282 pages

SHORTEST BOOK: 20 pages
God Bless Our Country by Hannah C. Hall

LONGEST BOOK: 573 pages
Villette by Charlotte Brontë

Villette by Charlotte Brontë

MOST POPULAR: The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho (1,868,794 readers)

God Bless Our Country by Hannah C. HallThe Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

LEAST POPULAR: Artists of the Renaissance by James Barter (2 other readers)

MY AVERAGE RATING : 3.9

HIGHEST RATED ON GOODREADS: Lots of Knock-Knock Jokes for Kids by Whee Winn (4.58 average)

 

NOTE: Goodreads creates a gorgeous color montage of all the titles a person has read during the Reader Challenge. And they send along a nifty bit of applause:

Congratulations! You’re really good at reading, and probably a lot of other things, too.

Hope your 2016 was full of reading delights and you also challenged yourself to explore the joy of reading.

I’m deciding upon my 2017 goal…hmm, up the ante? keep the same? make each month a special focus? So many choices!

I’m interested in any challenges met, planned, or otherwise. What’s going on for you in 2017 book wise?

 

Throw, THORoh,ThRow–that is the question



image: pintrest (this expression is no doubt related to the tolerance and forebearance he withstands of mispronouncing his name)

It’s more than embarrassing to realize the mangling of pronouncing a word, let alone it’s the name of a significant author. Authoritative responsibility is lacking. Students expect me to know how to say it if I’m teaching it. It’s one thing is mispronounce a word from time to time (can’t quite get synecdoche to come out right–it always sounds like a city of the Jersey state) and try as I might I still mangle words from time to time, but I do need to be better prepared when it comes to introducing writers to my students. For starters, this author list is definitely helping me to reestablish my reputation for literary name dropping. 

NOTE: my first list inconveniently vanished–this is from  www.pegasusbookexchange.com

Chinua Achebe (CHIN-wah uh-CHEH-beh)

Isabel Allende (ah-YEN-day)

Maya Angelou (MY-uh AN-juh-loo)

Avi (AH-vee)

Albert Camus (ahl-BEHR kah-MOO)

Paulo Coelho (POW-loo KWEH-lyoo)

Michael Crichton (KRY-tun)

Junot Diaz (JOO-no DEE-as)

Cory Doctorow (DOC-tuh-roh)

John Donne (dun)

Ken Follett (rhymes with “wallet”)

Neil Gaiman (GAY-mun, rhymes with “Cayman” as in the islands)

Johann Wolfgang Goethe (YO-hahn VULF-gahng GUH-tuh)

Seamus Heaney (SHAY-muss HEE-nee)

Brian Jacques (like “jake”)

Jack Kerouac (like “care uh wack”)

John Le Carré (luh kah-RAY)

Vladimir Nabokov (vlah-DEE-mir nuh-BOH-koff)

Samuel Pepys (peeps)

Ayn Rand (first name rhymes with “mine”)

Rainer Maria Rilke (RY-nur mah-REE-uh RILL-kuh)

J. K. Rowling (like “rolling”)

Louis Sachar (rhymes with “cracker”)

Jon Scieszka (SHES-kuh)

Shel Silverstein (SIL-ver-steen)

Donald J. Sobol (SO-bull)

Henry David Thoreau (like “thorough”)

Paul Theroux (thuh-ROO)

J. R. R. Tolkein (TOLL-keen)

Evelyn Waugh (EVE-lin wah)

Elie Wiesel (elly vee-ZELL)

P. G. Wodehouse (like “woodhouse”): Merriam-Webster

Herman Wouk (like “woke”) 
If there are any other writerly pronunciations that are tricky, oh please send them my way. 

Literary Book Boosters


I am a professed Book Booster, and most, if not all of you, reading my musings enjoy reading as well. Glad you’re here, and thanks for dropping by.

As I close out the  year, I wanted to give more than a  nod to Book Boosters found in literature. These are characters whose love of reading defines them and is central to the plot.

1. Scout Finch of To Kill a Mockingbird

Image result for scout of to kill a mockingbird

image: Houston Chronicle

Her love of reading gets her in trouble with the teacher on the first day of school because a first grader isn’t supposed to read yet–according to Miss Caroline. That’s the teacher’s job, as Scout finds out. Scout and Jem are always referring to books, often they become the object of bets made. The novel ends with Atticus and Scout reading The Grey Ghost (a definite correlation to Boo) as they wait for Jem to recover.

2. Jo March of Little Women

Image result for Jo March reading

image: Pintrest

Jo’s love of stories, both reading and writing them, propel her towards her goal if becoming an author.

3. Guy Montag of Fahrenheit 451

Image result for Guy Montag reading

image: lecinemadreams.blogspot.com

Guy Montag goes from book burner to book booster as he discovers the powerful message of allowing one’s imagination to roam unfettered. Reading books has him questioning the government’s oppressive rule over people’s freedom. He is willing to die for his love of books.

3. Catherine Morland of Northanger Abbey

Image result for catherine morland northanger abbey reading

image: Pintresst

Catherine’s fascination with Gothic romances fuels her imagination to the point of her concocting a horrible family secret that brings shame and ridicule upon her and jeopardizes her future. Jane Austen obviously had some fun poking fun at the Gothic romance trend of her day.

4.  Liesel Meminger of The Book Thief

Image result for Liesel Meminger of The Book Thief

image: Wiki

Liesel’s hunger for books leads her to steal them from a private library. The need to read becomes life-threatening when Hitler locks down on Germany’s freedom of expression during WWII. Liesel’s love of reading becomes her solace during the horrendous experiences of the war.

5. Anne Shirley of Anne of Green Gables

 

Image result for Anne Shirley of Anne of Green Gables reading

image: anneofgreengables.com

Fiery-haired and a fiery disposition fuels Anne towards her goal of taking her imagination and putting her ideas to paper. This beloved series captures the natural relationship between reading and writing.

BOOK BOOSTER CALL OUT…
I know there are more literature loving characters out there. This is where you chime in: who do you nominate needing a nod as a Literary Book Booster?

Post Navigation

%d bloggers like this: