still around

For those who might be interested, yes, I’m still around…still reading and writing and living. The cumulative effect of life quickly becomes overwhelming sometimes, so I back off of social media and websites and such, concentrating on making it through the days sane.

But as a brief update…

It’s been a wonderful reading year thus far. I set myself a goal of 60 books to read in 2018, and as of this morning I have made it through 18 books, or 30% of my goal. I haven’t reviewed many books so far, but that falls in line with staying largely offline lately (excluding work). Some of my favorite reads so far this year (a sampling): Freshwater, The Ministry of Utmost Happiness, The Underground Railroad, Little Fires Everywhere, and All the Light We Cannot See.

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Writing, for the first few months of the year, took a backseat to everything else. This past weekend, however, I finally began what I’ll characterize as the first full edit of my first draft of my first completed novel. I know there’ll be more to write as I reach the end of the editing phase, but at nearly 100,000 words, I needed a full refresh of the novel before writing the ending pieces anyway. So far, I’ve been pleasantly surprised…I am hoping to work regularly enough to have something ready for submission by Summer 2018.

I’ll try to hit only a few high points here…my wife and I bought a house a few weeks ago and are getting geared up for some work on it; we celebrate our wedding anniversary in about 2 weeks; and then our birthdays in May (30 and 40!); the kids are all good and everything else is going smoothly. Work is work. Evenings find us exhausted and not much use for anything after the kids get in bed. AND there’s so much road work that our morning commute has stretched from about 20 minutes to over an hour…

So that’s a brief update, touching base, if you will. And hopefully there’ll be something more coming soon…hopefully.

Bukowski and Self-Care: 10 Thoughts

I thought a good bit about self-care today…a particular type of attention to self that I struggle to approach thoughtfully and helpfully. These few quotes by one of my favorite poets, Charles Bukowski, helped me with my thinking.

book review – ‘record of a night too brief’ by hiromi kawakami

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I’ve done a terrible job of keeping up to date with posting book reviews lately. Life gets in the way; other books get in the way; other writing gets in the way. Excuses aside, I’ve been through some great novels of late and will be attempting to post at least one review per week, beginning today.

Book blurb (from Amazon) – The Akutagawa Prize-winning stories from one of the most highly regarded and provocative contemporary Japanese writers: part of our Japanese novella series, showcasing the best contemporary Japanese writing. In these three haunting and lyrical stories, three young women experience unsettling loss and romance. In a dreamlike adventure, one woman travels through an apparently unending night with a porcelain girlfriend, mist-monsters and villainous monkeys; a sister mourns her invisible brother whom only she can still see, while the rest of her family welcome his would-be wife into their home; and an accident with a snake leads a shop girl to discover the snake-families everyone else seems to be concealing. Sensual, yearning, and filled with the tricks of memory and grief, Record of a Night Too Brief is an atmospheric trio of unforgettable tales.

I was hooked on this collections of short stories from the opening line: “What was that itch on my back? I wondered. And then I realized that it was the night — the night was nibbling into me.”

Beautifully translated from the Japanese by Lucy North, Kawakami’s trio of stories leave a striking impression on the reader. Reading these tales is like being caught in a surreal recounting of dreams, or rather more like recalling and reliving the dreams of another, ethereal, dark, and sublime. With these stories the reader can’t be distracted by over-concentrating or over-thinking — you have to give yourself up to the reading, to the journey into something akin to the absurd. Fantastic events occur on nearly every page and no one, not even the narrator, gives any of these occurrences a second thought. The fantastic blends with the mundane seamlessly. The nearness of these stories to magical realism had me thinking of Marquez or Murakami, but Kawakami’s approach is entirely her own.

Kawakami’s writing is lovely, expressing an expansive imagination and a unique approach to storytelling. The stories are contemplation provoking, touching something deeper than mere analytical in the dedicated reader. I’d not experienced her before, but I will definitely be delving deeper in the worlds of Kawakami in the future.

Reading 2017

It was a tough decision, but I’d have to say this was the best book I read in 2017.

I didn’t read quite as much in 2017 as I’d planned, but I made it through some wonderful books. Starred entries were especial favorites of mine.

*A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini
The Perfect Place by Teresa E. Harris
Nightmare in Berlin by Hans Fallada
Cartwheeling in Thunderstorms by Katherine Rundell
Manhattan Beach by Jennifer Egan
The You I’ve Never Known by Ellen Hopkins
American Street by Ibi Zoboi
The Language of Thorns: Midnight Tales and Dangerous Magic by Leigh Bardugo
Clayton Byrd Goes Underground by Rita Williams-Garcia
*A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara
Drama by Raina Telgemeier
Empress Dowager Cixi: The Concubine Who Launched Modern China by Jung Chang
Wonder Woman: Warbringer by Leigh Bardugo
Warcross by Marie Lu
A Shadow Bright and Burning by Jessica Cluess
**Go, Went, Gone by Jenny Erpenbeck
Mirror, Mirror by Cara Delevingne
Turtles All the Way Down by John Green
Happy Dreams by Jia Pingwa
*A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. Le Guin
**Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward
The Whetting Stone by Taylor Mali
Always Happy Hour: Stories by Mary Miller
Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters AND Seymour, An Introduction by J.D. Salinger
Rattle 55: Civil Servants (poetry journal)
*The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick (23)
*Rattle 56: Mental Illness (poetry journal)
*Incest by Christine Angot
Fortune Smiles by Adam Johnson
Lincoln on the Bardo by George Saunders
Late Fame by Arthur Schnitzler
Purity by Jonathan Franzen
*Franny and Zooey by J.D. Salinger
The Littlest Bigfoot by Jennifer Weiner
Ghosts by Raina Telgemeier
The Warden’s Daughter by Jerry Spinelli
*Out of My Mind by Sharon Draper
The Inquisitor’s Tale: Or, the Three Magical Children and Their Holy Dog by Adam Gidwitz
Orphan Island by Laurel Snyder
*Making Bombs for Hitler by Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch
*My Struggle by Karl Ove Knausgard
*Men Without Women by Haruki Murakami
*The HandMaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
**The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley by Hannah Tinti
The Shadow Land by Elizabeth Kostova
*I Called Him Necktie by Milena Michiko Flasar
Here I Am by Jonathan Safran Foer

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the cut

The cutting of one’s skin, the dividing of human flesh, can happen in several ways:

There is the quick jab, like a needle or the slip of a knife while chopping vegetables, virtually painless in the moment, yet growing in discomfort as the medicine is applied or salt seeps into the wound. Pain level – minimal, a no when you ask a stranger on a date.

There is then the larger cut with a duller instrument, like concrete on the knee after a bike crash or the newly trimmed nails of a cat, painful in the moment, painful in the cleaning, leaving an ugly scar to commemorate the event. Pain level – medium, your best friend moves away for a new job.

There is the slower, deliberate, self-inflicted cut, made with the dull hunting knife your grandfather gave you for Christmas, dragged knowingly down the vein in your wrist, needing excuses of dish washing accidents to cover the gash all can see. Pain level – intense, when your child wants you out of their life at 16.