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September 19, 2013

Throwback Thursday: Long Post, Don’t Coast

Posted by emily

We have so many amazing TBT books today, I'm not even going to waste your time with some kooky intro. Suffice it to say, there's a great spread today --- as diverse as they come --- so ignore all your natural 20Something impulses not to read anything on the Internet past the second paragraph. We're worth it.

One of the greatest things about working on a 20Something site is that 20Somethings have a lot of interests. We are always changing our perspectives on politics, sex, money, etc., coming up with great ideas to jump start our entrepreneurial plans and still drinking too much beer --- which makes our long-term health goals (which were set in place when we graduated college three years ago) look like a joke. Sometimes we turn to friends to figure out whether or not our new ideologies are "realistic" or so completely far-fetched. Other times we turn to "other" forms of "practice" -- at age 20, I turned to Buddhism. Age 25, yoga. I'll admit, I never became a devout Buddhist; I don't even practice it now. Yoga, on the other hand, I'm sold that it might fix every single one of my problems...and the office pokes fun that I firmly stand behind this belief. Who knows...maybe next week, I'll hate it. But back to Buddhism, there are many "teachings" of the Buddhist practice that are applicable to every 20Something looking for an "answer," to be more "mindful," to learn to the take deep breaths and not sweat the small stuff. (Is everyone still having an identity crisis? Will this last forever? Maybe the only way I'll know is to visit a senior citizen home and listen very carefully to the sound wisdom of those who have "lived through it all.") I, by no means, have all the answers...I probably don't even have one answer --- although, Emily might vouch for me and agree that I can (operative word being can) give good a time of need [editorial note: Emily here, and she most certainly can]. Until I find the time to dilly dally at the geriatric convention, I turn to Thich Nhat Hanh, world-renown monk and celebrated teacher and author on mindful living. BEING PEACE does not tell you how to live you life. Rather it shows you the ways you can make your life more enjoyable and less stressful. In every way, his advice is grounding and smart. I'm not one for fluffy stuff, but I stand by BEING PEACE. Try it out. You might just like it.

REVOLUTIONARY ROAD is probably not the best book to read right as you’re on the cusp of your first serious relationship. The Richard Yates classic is about Frank and April Wheeler, a married couple who believe --- deeply and destructively --- that there is more to them than there is to their neighbors in a sleepy suburban Connecticut neighborhood. That conviction --- that they are deeper, smarter, more creative, and thus more deserving of some long-imagined better life --- ultimately becomes the scapegoat for all their dissatisfaction and shattered dreams, and their excuse for all the ways they wrong their friends, their children and one another. In the spirit of Fitzgerald before him, Yates created characters who pursue the idea of a better life without regard for the devastating effect that has on the lives they are actually living. Which is a message we can all take home with us --- especially when we tend to be dreamy and romantic, and let our imaginations live in the past and the future and rarely, rarely the present. I never got to finish REVOLUTIONARY ROAD (which is not cool because the ending is NUTS) because I got distracted by my new boyfriend and first love and all the craziness that entails. I did, though, finally see the Sam Mendes movie adaption --- after my boyfriend and I broke up --- and was duly shocked by the ending. Maybe if I’d actually finished the book I could’ve internalized its message and had a real shot at a lasting relationship. But let’s not dwell on the past.

Today, I’m gonna throwback to a throwback --- throwback squared? What I mean by that is that I’m going to talk about a time-travel book. I could pick the obvious ones --- TIME AND AGAIN, THE TIME TRAVELER’S WIFE, THE TIME MACHINE ---- but that would be too easy and none of them had quite the same effect on me as OUTLANDER by Diana Gabaldon, the first book in the Outlander series. The book takes married combat nurse, Claire Randall, out of her 1945 reality and sends her back in time to 1743 war-torn Scotland. Here, Claire is entangled in Scotland’s politics and is forced to question her loyalty to her husband as she becomes more and more fascinated with Scottish warrior, Jamie Frasier. The book has plenty of suspense, action and history for all you thrill-seeking readers, but if you’re just being a quintessential girl like me --- it’s also got yummy Jamie Frasier in a kilt. With the STARZ series adaption coming 2014, now is the perfect chance for everyone to at least catch up on the first book.

I really need to thank my parents for getting me this book when I was a kid. Edward Eager is one of those rare authors who has a great talent for writing kids that actually seem like kids (Judy Blume also springs to mind). My suspicious eight-year-old brain was satisfied that these were actually children in this book, and that the grown-ups weren’t trying to pull a fast one on me. Our heroes and heroines Katharine, Mark, Jane and Martha are having a terribly dull summer until they find a strange talisman shaped like a coin. They quickly realize that the talisman is magic, but when a wish to go to a deserted island lands them in the Sahara Desert instead, they discover that this magic has one important catch. You only get half of what you wish for. Since they’re children, this makes perfect sense and they don’t waste time with any X-Files “there must be some logical explanation” rubbish (seriously Scully, give it up already). Since being children does not make them idiots (another reason I liked them so much), the four of them learn to wish for two times what they want, such as giving a helpful camel trader “twice as much happiness as he deserves.” Clever and charming, it’s a great book for kids and for kids at heart (you know who you are, don’t lie).

I have been more than excited the past week --- despite being freezing in the morning --- because it’s time for fall books. For me, fall is the best time for mysteries, a little magic and all things creepy, which is why CORALINE is an absolute must re-read for me when autumn rolls around. This contemporary classic tells the story of a restless young girl who stumbles upon a door that leads to another world where there are “others” of everything --- another house just like hers, other neighbors and other parents. The new world is much more fun until she realizes her Other Mother wants her to stay forever, which isn’t so bad until you find out she wants to sew buttons in Coraline’s eyes to make it official. After that, things only get worse, and Coraline realizes just how much she misses her old boring life. CORALINE was the very first book to actually scare me too much to sleep, and Gaiman’s spooky imagery plays over and over in your head like a movie. Not sure if that’s a good thing considering I’m getting a little freaked out just writing this, but CORALINE is totally worth it, both for the delicious creepiness and the lesson that some doors are better left shut.

20Somethings have two loves, decadence and promiscuity. Every day I suffer with this reality. On one hand, I am so liberal that I have no objection to you developing an intimate relationship with a shoe; at the same time, some of my values border on puritanical. For this reason, Michael Moorcock’s THE DANCERS AT THE END OF TIME trilogy inspires a passionate love/hate relationship in me. In the far future, the denizens of Earth live without meaning. They find beauty in disaster, and are appalled at the idea of love and loyalty. Having developed the ability to alter the world at will, they have lost the ability to appreciate hard work and emotions. Everyday they build structures that would have taken generations in the past, then destroy them out of boredom. Death, sex, drug use, friendship, hope all have become novelties to be used for entertainment then thrown away. Their senseless world is shattered when an alien arrives to warn them that they literally live at the end of time and that they should take their last few years learning to appreciate life. Jherek Carnelian, the last natural born human, is the only one who takes this warning seriously. Determined to find a reason to live, and therefore a reason to be upset by his impending death, he courts an unwary time traveler from the Victorian era. A failure to communicate occurs on a spectacular level as the two try and learn how to live in each other’s worlds. Flying trains, mystical buffalos, pink oceans, incest, murder and well intentioned extremists abound as Jherek’s friends attempt to turn his new life into a novel work of art. Moorcock was prone to consuming massive amounts of speed and pumping out a novel in a few days; the rushed insanity of this series certainly shows that his nose must have been quite worn out by the last words. If you are insane, a prude, want to be either, or just feel like embracing undiluted chaos, this is a good place to start.

From the cover, you might think that DiCamillo’s BECAUSE OF WINN-DIXIE is merely another sad tale of a lonely kid and her dog --- hey, I sure did. When the book was given out in my sixth grade English class, I was less than enthused. But after (half-heartedly) diving into the first few chapters, I was hooked.

BECAUSE OF WINN-DIXIE actually does tell the story of a lonely girl --- a girl named Opal, who has just moved to her new trailer park home in Florida with her father, not to mention a gaping void left by her mother’s seven-year absence.  One day Opal walks into the local Winn-Dixie for groceries, and comes out with a dog, who had been wreaking some havoc in the produce aisle. She so cleverly names him Winn-Dixie and the two swiftly become inseparable. With Opal’s sweet disposition and Winn-Dixie’s charming smile, Opal begins meeting some special people, each with an odd tale of their own. There’s Miss Franny Block, the librarian who once fought off a bear with a copy of WAR AND PEACEGloria Dump, an old blind woman with a dark past of alcoholism and a love for peanut butter and Otis, an ex-con who plays music for the animals he sets loose from his pet shop. That summer, Opal collects the stories of her new unusual friends, and it all happened --- you guessed it! --- because of Winn-Dixie.

Winn-Dixie and Opal will teach you the value of friendship and the importance of forgiveness. It is a classroom classic filled with enough loving charm to melt your heart and enchanting characters that will stay with you long after you’ve finished the book.