The Last Book Ever Written is a cautionary tale that reads like a 1950s noir novel. Despite its thoughtful and well-thought-out characters and plot, it suffers from the earnestness of its social commentary. The writing itself is very formal and straightforward and reads like a report. While this is functional in terms of relaying the action and information, it lacks poetry and makes the reading itself tedious. It reminded me of reading Ayn Rand’s Anthem, but I have to admit I appreciated Anthem more than The Last Book Ever Written in part, I think, because the main character in Anthem has no knowledge of the past, and that past seems very very distant. Whereas the main character in The Last Book Ever Written does know his history, yet he remains a very naïve character and I had a hard time sympathizing with him. The book’s themes too – that creativity is needed, that we should talk to each other more than look at our iPhones – felt overly simplistic to the point of patronizing. I applaud the author for writing the book because it is well done overall, I just wanted to like it a lot more than I actually did.
The Ballad of a Small Player is vivid in the way a dream is when you first wake up, before it disappears from consciousness. A novel about the thrill of losing, and the impenetrable wall between opposites that sometimes vanishes in an instant of luck. RATING: 2.5 out of 5 stars.
After the HBO Access Fellowship debacle where Withoutabox.com crashed in the mad rush to upload applications before the 1000-entry cap was met, I got so upset and depressed about missing an opportunity that I realized I was still searching for some kind of validation and permission. Well, screw that. One of the best things I walked out of USC with was an ability to pick up a camera and make a film without a need for anyone’s permission. It was liberating, because I had needed this external approval for so long. A day or so after, I received an email from the Writer’s Store about a screenplay contest where they provide the logline and you write the first 15 pages. I thought – this sounds like fun. I’m currently finished working on my novel, awaiting feedback from my Beta readers, so I wasn’t actively writing anything and I need that in my life. I also decided I would write the full script for this logline and set it in Houston and write something that I could reasonably produce as an indie feature. I don’t need no permission.
I don’t remember exactly when I first read Maya Angelou’s autobiography I KNOW WHY THE CAGED BIRD SINGS. It wasn’t for school, but it was sometime in high school. I was moved and inspired by many African American writers at the time, particularly James Baldwin and Toni Morrison, but Angelou’s series of autobiographies captured my mind and my heart and stayed with me.
I have nothing in common with Ms. Angelou. I am a white girl, born with a certain amount of privilege, who grew up in the frustrating/stimulating and education-dominant Washington, DC. I was a vanilla suburbanite in the chocolate city. There are many powerful perks to growing up in that region. Even if you don’t care about politics, you’re immersed in it. The power, the money, the ambition are everywhere and shape what you think of the world. Even before I went to the President’s-kids-go-here school in 10th grade, when I was just a public school kid, I went to one of the best public schools in the country. I saw Presidents get inaugurated as a child and went to the White House Egg Roll for Easter. When I danced the kid part in the annual The Nutcracker, it was for the Joffrey Ballet at the Kennedy Center. Books and movies and television shows were about my home town. These are things I didn’t realize were inside of me until I left.
And by the time I was in high school, there were things about DC I wanted to escape. Things I hated: the classism, the racism, the elitism. The fear of living in a city with a large amount of crime. I didn’t want to let that fear rule me.
I also didn’t want to be what others expected of me, and DC felt full of that. My parents weren’t easy (still aren’t), and expectations are a family tradition.
Maybe this is typical of teenagers who feel so “other” in their own lives. Who want to shed their skin and distance themselves from what they know in order to find who they truly are. But I felt a deep connection with Ms. Angelou’s words, and they helped shape how I approached the discovery of who I wanted to be.
It wasn’t the differences that drew me to Ms. Angelou’s life story. It was the similarities. If you read Ms. Angelou’s biographies, you will see a life full of love, and pain, and disadvantage, and unexpected meetings, and surprises, and choices that lead from one point to the next. It’s crazy to think about the different roles she played in her own life. I identified with her, not because of shared experiences, but because of shared emotions. Analogous situations. Do I believe Ms. Angelou cultivated her story into something thematic that became more literary than the standard autobiography? Sure! But I identify with that too. I want to shape my own story into something that makes sense. Storytelling has become my religion.
And that too, may be a lasting legacy of Ms. Angelou’s influence on me: to tell stories, to write. She was an insurmountable spirit, woman, human being. I will miss the wisdom she still could have shared, but I will remember and cherish what she has already given to this world.
I KNOW WHY THE CAGED BIRD SINGS
GATHER TOGETHER IN MY NAME
SINGIN’ AND SWINGIN’ AND GETTIN’ MERRY LIKE CHRISTMAS
THE HEART OF A WOMAN
ALL GOD’S CHILDREN NEED TRAVELING SHOES
A SONG FLUNG UP TO HEAVEN
Don’t go thinking I haven’t been doing anything just because I haven’t been posting here! Oh no!
I think that’s one of the things that we forget as creative people because it’s the WORK that matters, what we PRODUCE that can be touched or watched or absorbed through one sense or another.
But life happens. And I want to experience it.
And I’ve also just been busy trying to slog my way through the producing aspects. So here’s a tally of what’s been going on and I plan to get this website more focused in the coming months! Including a sneak peak of what I’ve been writing!
I have to admit, I was embarrassed to buy this book because the title and the cover looked so…cheesy. But my own YA novel “pushes limits” on things like sex and I wanted to see what was out there in the market.
Honestly! I bought this for research…and then I fell in love with it.
The synopsis of the story, below, is not why I fell in love with the book. The plot is fairly weak, a framing device to push the characters closer or to heighten tension. But what McGarry does in between those little nudges takes us on a journey from darkness to light, confusion to understanding. The character descriptions aren’t even that unique but there’s a strong and definite arc that is believable and is well-supported by the events in the story.
What is most impressive about the writing, and the reason why I fell in love with the book, is that McGarry is able to give distinct voices to Echo and Noah as they alternate chapter POVs. I could hear them, practically see them in front of me. The depth of what they are feeling, thinking, and doing, felt so real and honest. It’s a coming-of-age story fraught with the complicated nature of becoming independent from your parents and learning to cope with tragedy and the inexplicable nature of life. Even the side characters are three-dimensional and jump off the page. Little details help flesh out what could be a smarmy teen drama.
So it’s almost an injustice to break the book down into a description of parts, because the way it comes together is beautiful and satisfying and even cathartic.
It’s been a long time since I’ve kept up my initiative to write a post about Movies on Mondays, Writing on Wednesdays, and Photos on Friday. Days go by so fast and some days are more productive than others but still the posts remain unwritten.
Oscars were Sunday night and it was the first time I’ve watched the awards with my daughter and continued the mother-daughter tradition that I loved so much from my own childhood. Watching the Oscars definitely influenced my love of movies, the industry, and celebrity culture. To be able to share that with my daughter reminded me of that joy and inspiration. At the same time, I realized that what I was doing was not about filmmaking or wanting to make films, but enjoying an event that celebrates a love of movies with someone I love. What is important to my life, what has always been important, isn’t the professional climb or success but sharing moments in life with other people.
PURE by Julianna Baggott follows several characters but the main heart of the story belongs to Pressia, a young girl turning 16 in a world that’s been obliterated by an atomic bomb 10 years prior. Everyone on the outside of a Dome which served as protection for the “pures” are considered “wretches” and have some kind of fusing. In Pressia’s case, one hand has been covered by the doll’s head that she was holding at the time of the blast. Another character is fused with birds that are still alive and implanted on his back. Other characters are fused with other people like Siamese twins. It’s grotesque and part of Pressia’s arc is to figure out whether she can accept herself for who she is or if she is better off finding a “cure” for her deformity. When a pure escapes from the Dome on a mission to find his mother, Pressia saves his life and the two of them start a journey discovering the truth about the Dome, the outside world, what happened, their families. Like WIZARD OF OZ, they collect newcomers along the way who become integral to the overall story.
PURE (followed by Book 2 FUSE and Book 3 BURN) is an excellent series that offers a true sci fi world, variety of character, and something more complicated writing than than the young heroine in a dystopian/apocalyptic society stories we have seen in other series such as HUNGER GAMES, DIVERGENT, LEGEND, MATCHED… Baggott’s use of changing POV within a selection of main characters but not ALL the characters offers the reader an opportunity to at times be complicit in wrongdoing, something not seen in these other series. I found myself uncomfortable with at least one of the main characters who kept disappointing my expectation of becoming the hero and rising above external manipulation. It was enlightening to see/read/experience characters from a direct POV who ultimately failed in their character arc. It was expertly handled by Baggott.
I highly recommend it. I’m not sure it came to a full resolution at the end of BURN, but endings are always hard and in such a rich and complex story, I am not sure what I would have done differently.
In all, I’m not sure I understand why it hasn’t done as well as the previously mentioned series’ like HUNGER GAMES. When I wanted to purchase PURE, I had to order it online, no store carried it. I wonder if it’s because the love story is not as central as it is in the other series, though it’s certainly there. It’s a more difficult read and I didn’t get caught up in the same passion and urgency to continue reading the way I did with the other series. However, I think that’s a testament to its writing and characters that it couldn’t be treated as pulp. I can see how it may have benefited from more action and a different style of description for the dramatic conflict scenes. As a writer, it’s an interesting question. Thoughts always welcome!
I just finished ALLEGIANT, the third and final sequel in the DIVERGENT series by Veronica Roth. It would be a disservice to give away anything that happens to the major characters, but I have to say that Roth’s writing is as brave and convention-shattering as her main characters. She demonstrates that Young Adult fiction does not have to be safe and comfortable for its audience.