So while there's this little (and I mean really small) part of me that's trying to be an adult, whispering resume, applications, interviews, insurance, income, stablity, there's a much larger part screaming
So I am listening to that part, because it is more fun and I need to see my friends and have long-drive-alone therapy and be in a new city and raise hell for a little while.
My life has been absolutely crazy lately, and I've had no downtime to let it all sink in and be processed. I feel like I'm still weeks behind myself...
For awhile, I was writing a lot of fiction. I completed two or three stories that I didn't want to rip up afterwards. I was getting ready to return to reality and start the submission process when other things came up.
For awhile, I was having a lot of fun with my life. Not to imply I don't always, but just crazy, is-this-really-my-life?, summertime fun. I was busy all the time, going going going, never having time to stop and reflect too much, when other things came up.
Now all those other things are being pushed out of the picture, even though I still haven't had time to come to terms with it, because my company is closing.
It's not completely unexpected, but there's a huge difference between kinda-maybe thinking it'll happen in the upcoming years and actually having it happen. To be fair, I had already put a time limit on myself there, because I didn't want to get stuck in one job forever (somewhat addressed here).
My plan was to take a year and figure out what I want to do next. A year, do you hear me? Not two months. I'm grateful for those two months, but really? I have to figure out my next step, and I haven't even figured out what happened last night. I honestly feel like my brain is about to explode.
Edit: As long as the local paper can come up with a cutesy headline: "It's a wrap"
The Food Network's Great Food Truck Race was in Memphis this weekend, filming the second season of the show. The first season was awesomely entertaining (this coming from someone who doesn't like reality shows) so I was excited for a chance to check it out in person. The show doesn't begin airing until August 14th, but the final four were filming in Memphis. Initially, they were going to start selling downtown Saturday between 11a and noon, so my sister-in-law, some friends and I made plans for that. The morning of, things got pushed back to 3 and 4p. Annoying, but we were already downtown so we decided to enjoy it. Trolley rides and people-watching can't be beat.
Our group was down to two by the time the trucks actually started serving, but that's ok because these two? First in line for Korilla BBQ from NYC, even if a couple of middle-aged men did skip us last minute. They'll get theirs. We ordered one of everything, and as we were chowing down, Food Network producers made the rounds and had us sign waivers. They took pictures of us holding said waivers, for identification purposes, and a particularly flirty producer told me he'd put mine up on a dating site and - dating himself (yuk yuk!) - a Myspace page. We then ate ribs from a local BBQ joint, and the producers asked us to compare the two. Cameras started rolling, I began talking, and the producer guided our comments. "So the Memphis BBQ tastes better? Say that New York can't beat Memphis." I gave up and let my friend have her moment in the spotlight. It'll be interesting to see if they air any of our interviews, since we never actually said what they wanted us to...
Our group grew by one as we walked a few blocks to where the other three trucks were camped out. We found the Lime Truck and immediately began crushing on the cute, friendly boys running it. If you have any idea how much I love dancing, this video will explain everything, and more than likely make you fall for these guys, too: the Lime dance(video courtesy of the dashing @Tallslimcollins.)
Every truck seemed to be offering a t-shirt for a certain amount spent, but the Lime Truck stepped it up a notch:
Ladies... you know want it.
My crew didn't spend that much money, but chef Jason and I made a tattoo-based love connection. When his dad began following me on Twitter, I figured I was approved.
We were supposed to look "tough" and then "lovestruck" - clearly failing on both fronts.
After spending ten hours in the sun, eating a lot, drinking a lot, stalking a lot, we were ready to call it a night. Since my sunburn eased into a tan in record time and my feet didn't fall off, I ventured back out on Sunday night!
The Lime Truck was already out of the items I wanted to try, but I tried a few bites of things here and there, and was filmed eating more Korilla BBQ. I don't remember what I said this time either, except that I froze when the cameras were on us, then insisted they'd get better footage filming a Santa-esque man who strutted by wearing short-shorts. Unfortunately, he didn't stop at a food truck, so they kept the cameras on us. We stuck around after the trucks closed and left, just watching how they "guided" scenes. I can't wait to see how it plays out on TV compared to (real) reality.
It was an amazing, jam-packed weekend, and I wish I had another one instead of having to return to work! So for right now, I'm just thankful I don't have to worry about hearing myself sound stupid on television for two and a half more months.
Sing You Home by Jodi Picoult. Zoe is a music therapist, meaning she helps others deal with life by expressing themselves through music, as well as performing it herself. She has trouble conceiving a baby, and wants nothing more than to have a big family. Then come the hits - not musical hits, but hard life hits that knock her off track. The biggest part of the story is a legal battle ripped from the headlines, like many of Picoult's storylines. It's very well-done and thoroughly researched, but at times the story gets bogged down in legalese; I admit I skimmed those parts. It was a very emotional and powerful read, and I highly recommend it.
It came with a CD, because, as Zoe says, "every life has a soundtrack." I didn't want to be distracted by the music while I was reading, which is how you're supposed to listen - each song matches up with a section of the book. When I played it later, I was glad I had waited. I'm sure it jived with the story, but I really didn't care for the singer's voice and that rubbed me the wrong way. I love the idea of having songs match up to the book, but the music wasn't my style, so I'm glad I read it with my own soundtrack playing.
So B. It by Sarah Weeks. Since Heidi, the main character in So B. It, loved to make lists, I thought I would start my review that way. Things I Love About This Book
- Beautiful language
- Compassionate, realistic characters
- Compelling story
- Unique style
- Heart-warming and touching without being sentimental
A young teen, Heidi, lives with her mentally disabled mother, who only knows a select amount of words, and who thinks her own name is "So Be It." Their caring neighbor, Bernie, took them under her wing when Heidi was just a week old. Bernie provides for them the best she can, however, what she can provide is limited, because she is agoraphobic.
The opening lines had me hooked: "If truth was a crayon and it was up to me to put a wrapper around it and name its color, I know just what I would call it - dinosaur skin. … But that was a long time ago, before I knew what I know now about both dinosaur skin and the truth."
Heidi learns from Bernie, who home-schools her, that you can't tell the color of an animal by its bones, so we'll never know what color dinosaurs actually were. But when Mama adds a new word to her limited vocabulary, Heidi is determined to find the truth behind it.
Every sentence was so beautiful, so powerful, yet so stripped down - no extra words, no flowery language weighing it down. One of my favorites (and I really have to limit it to one, before I quote the whole book) was how a hug was described as "…arms around us both like string around a package."
While bits and pieces reminded me of certain things: "I Am Sam" because of the 'normal' child and mentally handicapped parent; The Man Who Loved Clowns because of the handicapped relative; I am the Cheese because of the "Farmer in the Dell" song and a spoiler-ish aspect I won't reveal here; these reminders were vague, because the book was entirely unique.
The Fiction Class by Susan Breen. The book told a nice story, but I feel like my enjoyment hung mostly on the mother's short story, which was woven between chapters. The main plot was a little flat and typical, and reminded me of a handful of other books. I never felt like I was close to the main character, Arabella, nor did I ever fully understand her thoughts, actions, and motives. In teaching her fiction workshop, she made rash judgments on her students based on appearances and made up stereotypical back stories (which I feel like a writer would push her imagination to the limit, not label everyone a stereotype). Over the course of the semester, Arabella realized that these students were not what she expected, yet I don't feel like she actually learned her lesson. Same with writing her own novel, which I think was pushed much too far into the background. In deciding to scrap it, does the reader know that she is determined enough to try again? There are allusions to a new start, but nothing concrete enough to sell me.
The saving grace, as I mentioned, was her mother's own short story, which she began writing while in a nursing home. She finally shows her daughter, and asks Arabella to help with an ending. This mother-daughter relationship, while still keeping the reader at arm's length, was the most believable and compelling aspect of the book. Arabella and her mother have always been at odds with each other, yet Arabella visits every week out of obligation, until a real understanding begins to develop through writing.
I think the reason I keep saying this book felt distant and unemotional was the style in which it was written. The language, while modern, was very formal, and contractions weren't used very often, so I read it in a stilted voice. I think this style probably kept me hung up on the words themselves, instead of what they were saying.
I Think I Love You by Allison Pearson. Another book starring a music therapist! Very humorous book, but also with some hard-hitting truths and gorgeous sentences. When Petra was thirteen, she was in love with David Cassidy. She and her best friend, Sharon, enter "the Ultimate David Cassidy Quiz" to win a chance to meet their idol. Over twenty years later, as Petra is cleaning out her deceased parents' house, she finds an envelope in the back of her mother's closet. Inside is a letter informing her that she and Sharon have won the contest and will get to meet David Cassidy! On a whim, Petra tracks down the old magazine's publisher and shares her story. They decide to honor her prize, and she and Sharon get an expenses-paid trip to Vegas to finally meet David Cassidy.
Pearson nails exactly how teen girls are about their idols, and it's with the perfect mix of humor and realism that keeps you from feeling ridiculous for whomever you loved as a teen. I especially loved the interview with Cassidy she included in the end, which allows the reader to see exactly how much of this book was fiction, and how much was Pearson herself.
Distant Waves by Susan Weyn. This book is about five sisters who travel on the Titanic, as well as their journey to that point. They were raised in a small town in New York which is something like a commune for spiritual people - fortune tellers, palm readers, and more. Jane, the 2nd oldest sister and narrator, is more rooted in science than her mother and their neighbors, but is never quite sure what she believes in the spiritual realm. Jane's younger twin sisters, one who never speaks, are able to see into the afterlife in such a way that Jane doesn't think they're faking it. Her mother, however, seems just to be hyper-attentive (much like Shawn on Psych). The family sails to London to participate in a spirituality conference, and for the return trip, the sisters are aboard the Titanic.
While the outcome of that voyage is no secret, Weyn puts a supernatural/spiritual twist on it. Overall, the book was very interesting, but for me personally, the ending relied too heavily on the supernatural element to make a big impact. Weyn has a chapter of notes after the ending and explains what was true and what she made up, as well as how she was inspired for certain elements.
13 Little Blue Envelopes by Maureen Johnson. Read on the nook. Very sweet, easy-to-read book about Ginny, a girl whose dead aunt has sent her thirteen blue envelopes. Each letter contains instructions on a task to complete, which means Ginny is traveling abroad all alone. While I was interested in this book from the start, I initially thought it was just a nice story. The closer I got to the end, I realized how much it actually impacted me. It's very sweet, yes, but also very telling. It made me want to give up everything that wasn't important and necessary, just to travel and learn more about myself.
The Last Little Blue Envelope by Maureen Johnson. Read on the nook. This book was a perfect second part to 13 Little Blue Envelopes. It wrapped everything up, brought back old characters and showed them in a new light, while introducing some great new characters. Someone has found Ginny's last letter from her aunt, so she goes abroad over Christmas break to finish what she started the previous summer. As aunt Peg says, you can't go home again, and while Ginny visits some of the same European countries as she did before, the book doesn't seem repetitive or tired at all. It's just as eye-opening and suspenseful as the first. I felt a little more emotional distance between myself as a reader and Ginny this time, and in certain sections I feel like she didn't show any emotional response at all, which seemed unnatural due to what was happening to her. Which isn't to say I didn't tear up at the end! Overall, it was a great read, very amusing and touching.
I have this idea about age ingrained in me that I'm still trying to shake. You know, the idea that by 22, you're a college graduate; 23, you're working a "real" job in your field, making enough to live comfortably. You're settling in, settling down, becoming an adult.
That's not exactly me. I worked with my own timeline, but now I've caught up with the "typical" track: a real job, a salary. That doesn't mean I'm settling, though. I've dedicated this year to figuring things out, and I've been doing a lot of thinking. Am I any closer to an answer? Probably not, if only because I'm still in the process of asking the right questions.
When my grandparents' brains were deteriorating, my mom and I would talk about their hallucinations. Brains have always fascinated me: thoughts and dreams and memories, all of it. What do hallucinations feel like, what does the person actually see, what do they believe is going on? How come the person sometimes doesn't recognize their own child, but at another time they're aware they're hallucinating while experiencing it? I told my mom I'd love to study the brain, if only I were younger. She stared at me for a minute, then said, "How old are you?" "Well, twenty-five, but it's still too late for me to pick a new field. That's something I should have figured out in high school, majored in the first time around, not try to go back through now." And it's sad, but it's true; that's how I feel about a new, drastically different career.
In a conversation with Melissa Sarno, I mentioned my desire to be on Saturday Night Live, saying "Obviously that never happened." She came back with "Ya never know, you could still end up on SNL and beat Betty White for being the oldest person on the show." Which is true, and inspiring, and somehow seems more attainable than going back through school studying neuroscience. I can't even pretend to understand why my thought process differs so much on the subject.
I think the most important thing I will focus on this year is time. I've been narrowing down my interests, trying to center them in a logical way so I won't feel scattered, with eight different career paths in one lifetime. But I'm also trying to accept that I can be thirty when I start my dream career, forty when I'm published for the first time, fifty before I own a house. I just want to do these things, so why am I trying to cram it all in now?
In cleaning out my grandparents' home, my mom found an old poem I had written for them. On the back was:
Maybe all this worrying is for nothing, and I'm exactly where I'm meant to be.
*This post was chewed up and spit out during the Great Blogger Meltdown of 2011. I really enjoyed the comments, so I'm going to repost them along with my replies. Rest assured, I do not have multiple personalities.
I have a lot of new followers, and even some of the old may not know how much I love Aerosmith. I feel like people know just by looking at me, just by hearing my name: Allison = Aerosmith. It just is. I could go on about that forever, and I actually did in my first draft, but I've cut it out to get right down to book-reviewin' business.
Not to start off on a negative note, but I didn't like the cover too much. Maybe because I saw it while the book was in progress, with the release date getting pushed back repeatedly; I started thinking it wasn't a real book, but when it was real, the cover would look better. It's not horrible, but it's typical.
I always take off the dust jackets when I'm reading hardbacks, because I know they'll get shredded. When I took this one off... my mind was blown.
Is that not THE coolest thing ever? I thought "Why wasn't THIS the cover?" But I kind of like that it's hidden, if you look beneath the dust jacket you get a surprise. I could say it's an appropriate metaphor for what you'll learn from the book - not judging by appearance, but that's so obvious I'm sure you jumped to the conclusion yourself.
I had mixed feelings about the book going in. A big part of me worried the book would be self-indulgent, clearing Steven's own name while sullying everyone else's. Another part of me thought it would be all about his rock & roll decadence, drug problems, women; Walk This Way (the band's autobiography), but focused solely on Steven. I'll admit that part of me wanted that, to hear his side of the story and all the juicy gossip.
I didn't get it.
At first, I was disappointed. The narrative was scattered - a section on Steven's childhood veered off into discussing his own children. There was no timeline. After a few pages, I was in. I got it. The stream-of-consciousness was originally distracting, but a polished narrative would have been moreso. This book is Steven talking to the reader. You can hear him, not the ghost writer, not an editor. He addresses his music, his career, the drugs, the women, but it's so much more. This gives me a feel for who he is more than any other autobiography I've read about anyone else. It's how he sees the world, it's what he thinks when he writes a song.
"STEVEN TYLER, an aging but well-preserved rock star moodily stares into space... He's talking into a digital tape recorder, which he barely knows how to operate." [jokingly (?) writing his movie script]
I posted last week about celebrity authors before I was too far into this book. I didn't know what to make of it at that point. But now I think this is probably the most real autobiography I've read. Steven talked into a tape recorder; the ghost writer, David Dalton, transcribed it, maybe edited and organized it slightly. But I think Steven took it back, went through and made sure certain words were spelled phonetically so you could hear his voice, hear him burst into lyrics and rhymes, hear his signature scat, drag words out so you feel the weight of them. Much of the book is like this; it's very poetic, with rhymes and alliteration.
If Stephen Davis had come in and smoothed everything out, polished the tales and lined them up in chronological order, it would have been another Walk This Way. Instead, this book is Steven Tyler, as opposed to being about Steven Tyler. If you want the stories from his life, read Walk This Way. If you want to get inside his head, read Does the Noise in My Head Bother You?
There are a few inconsistencies that really bother me. Lately, finding any sort of error in a book from a large publishing house has been getting under my skin. I know we're all human, there will always be errors, but when you have such a high profile book, and so many people checking over it, it seems like mistakes would easily be caught.
Some might have been kept as an attempt to show Steven's voice, like when he sings "backdoor lover" for "Walk This Way" on p90, and "backstroke lover" on p159.
Some should have been questioned by the editor, like when Steven talks about writing "Dude (Looks Like a Lady)" for Permanent Vacation, which was released in 1987: "It was 1991, the year of the Dude. The 'dude' thing was just starting to take off in NYC…" As a ghost writer, editor, publisher, anything, wouldn't you go back to the source and say "Um, Steven? That album was released in 1987. You say you got the idea in 1991. Can we go over this again?"
Some are blatantly wrong. The Fenway show is documented as being August 15, 2010. It was a one-night only show, and I was there on August 14, 2010. I understand Steven said it, but when it's a fact on record, with thousands of witnesses, I'd think the editor would make an executive decision to correct it.
A similar problem was in the "permissions" section. "Hole in my Soul," an Aerosmith song, was listed as "Hole in my Sole." I was surprised that another major error was not caught, especially when Steven mentioned the song by name earlier in the book and it was correctly "Hole in my Soul."
I'm already wanting to read this book again. It's very honest, raw, emotional, and funny, all at once. I definitely recommend it.
Quotables On his life: "Sometimes it feels like... all I'm doing is rearranging the deck chairs on the fucking Titanic." On women: "She could bend over backward - my kinda girl - and she had a flat head where I could rest my beer." On fame/the media: "...they're looking at me, and what they see is this Steven Tyler entity. I began to think of myself in the third person..."
"So go on, make it up! By now Steven Tyler is pretty much a fictional character anyway... I read about him and I don't know who it is." On Joe's amp volume: "He'd play so loud, even Helen Keller could sing along." On lyrics: "People ask me all these questions about 'Dream On.' 'What does it mean?' What do you mean, 'What does it mean?' It means Dream On. You figure it out. You're the one listening to it... make up your own meaning."
*Disclaimer: I am currently reading Does the Noise in My Head Bother You?, but I'll have a separate post on it next week. Also, I'm not even touching on celebrities writing fiction, because that usually grosses me out. This is all about autobiographies.*
How much do celebrities care about their books? The obvious answer is a lot, but that's not what I mean. They're famous for something other than writing: for acting or performing music or being rich and skanky. They usually have a ghost writer. Do they always have a ghost writer? Has anyone ever heard of a book actually written by a non-author celebrity all by their lonesome? Google tells me that Cyndi Lauper was going to attempt this, but I can't find an actual published book. (Did this paragraph make anyone else miss the PBS classic Ghostwriter? No? Just me?) Regardless, how much effort the celebrity actually puts into the book is questionable.
Of course they care about how many copies they sell. They want it to be interesting so more people talk about it and buy the book and buy into their image. But do they care about it the way a "typical" writer would care? Are they excited to see it on shelves simply because they created it, not just because it'll make money?
I'm not referring only to vapid celebrities famous for nothing, either. Rock autobios, for example (and because they're my favorite) - do the musicians really care about the book? They've lived their lives, do they worry that the public won't "get" them? Aren't they focused on the music? Isn't that what they dedicate themselves to, pour themselves into?
This will sound biased, because it's no secret I am crazy about Joey Kramer and his book, Hit Hard(see my posts here and here), but I think he might be an exception. I would have to argue that, while being in an incredibly famous band, he himself is not that well-known among non-Aerosmith fans (who I call "commoners"). Also, he had two ghost writers, and actually named them on the cover. His book focused more on his abusive father, depression and overcoming it than "Look at me, I'm famous!" A lot of people have commended him for this, and he seems genuinely happy that his book is helping others who have depression/anxiety issues.
I know no one has an answer to this question because the celebrities who read my blog are much too busy to comment, but share your speculations! Share your insights! Judge me for my rock autobio tastes! (For the record, I also read a lot of music industry bios, and of course author bios.) Recommend your favorite bios and autobios!
I originally divided my books into two posts because I thought I was going to
finish a couple more, but I didn't want to rush them! So this looks small,
but I talk about each a bit more than usual.
Invincible Summer by Hannah Moskowitz. Read on the nook. I started this book on my lunch break the day it was released, and finished it that night. It was so good, I didn't want to put it down until I was done. First, I want to say how much I love the cover. I realize it might alienate some younger male readers because it looks "girly" (though it might not, considering the subject matter...) but I first saw it and thought I knew what was butt and what was boobs. Found out on Hannah's blog I was totally wrong! But I love that it goes both ways.
Hannah has a great way of writing the non-stereotypical teenage boy character. I love how the siblings in her family are always close-knit and care so much about each other. She definitely made you feel like you were on the beach right with the characters, even though her imagery wasn't gratuitous, just vivid. The book takes place over four summers, and that's the only time you get to know the characters. I love that we don't see them the rest of the year, and it doesn't affect the story at all. We don't need to know anything about their lives except what happens during those summers. I thought I would miss the rest of the year, but it didn't leave holes like some other books have (Blume's Summer Sisters comes to mind as one that gave only glimpses, when a full year would be needed).
Once the climax was close, it seemed inevitable, but it wasn't a let-down by any means. It was still very emotional without being sentimental, and the characters dealing with the aftermath was heartbreaking after getting to know them so well over the course of the book. Even after such a story arc, the ending didn't fall flat. I'll admit I skipped over almost all of the Camus quotes because they got quite long and I didn't want to get bogged down in them, but they were well-chosen to fit in the story.
The End of the Line by Angela Cerrito. The subject matter of this book reminded me of Robert Cormier's novels - very unsettling. Robbie is in a school/prison/asylum (aka "The End of the Line") for troubled youth; by trial and error he finds out what he needs to accomplish to go home. We are told the story of how he came to this place in alternating chapters - one set in the prison, one from the past, etc. I'm not going to go into the subject matter, because it's easy to give away too much, but everything fit together perfectly to show the reader how a young boy could come unhinged. Robbie's struggle to come to terms with what he did - did he murder his friend, or was it an accident? - is the key to getting home again.
One point that didn't really get resolved was what happened in the period of time from the incident to his stint in solitary confinement. Other schools are mentioned, as well as disciplinary actions, but the reader is never really filled in about what happened, and why. There are enough clues to jump to your own conclusions, but I would have preferred a little more story there.
Rise and Shine by Anna Quindlen. The first third of this book is interesting in a gossipy way. The main character is actually NOT the main character, she's honing in on her famous sister's life and taking a backseat to all the action and reaction the sister experiences. Somewhere near the halfway point, the main character actually becomes the main character. We get to see her day-to-day life and experience things from her point of view, more than experience her sister's life through her own. Overall it was an interesting book, and I definitely wanted to finish it to see what happened. I felt like it gave an interesting spin on a celebrity's fall from grace, but I felt very distanced from it all. I was aware I was reading a book, and didn't feel like I was sucked in at all. There was also a loose thread when the sisters were in Jamaica that was never addressed, which bugs me even after having closed the book. Spoiler - it was about sex! Why wouldn't you want to clarify what was going on if was a possible affair? I was disappointed that was never brought up because it could have been a major thing.
Bottled Up by Jaye Murray. This book was a very harsh reality from the fiction I usually read, which is in no means fluffy... but this book was just very dark and honest. It's about a sixteen year old boy's escape from a bad family life into drugs and alcohol. He's following in the footsteps of his abusive father, yet he doesn't want his six year old brother to follow him, so he has to find a balance. I felt like the whole thing was realistic - each step taken seemed logical for a sixteen year old to choose, and the ending didn't seem too much of a stretch. The characters were very real, even if they weren't all happy and polished.
The Everything Guide to Comedy Writing by Mike Bent. This book had been sitting on my shelf for over a year, ever since a friend and I were going to do comedy writing as an independent study in grad school. I'd flipped through it before, but didn't sit down to actually read it until now. It is very detailed, easy to read, and easy to follow and build on what was learned in previous chapters. It provided an even balance of comedic inspiration and practical advice. There were writing exercises at the end of each chapter, along with a Q&A profile of a working comedian. The practical advice ranged from stand-up to writing movie scripts, so it was well-rounded.