Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Health – Joy Williams



“Williams's fiction often portrays life as a downward spiral, and the failure of life in America, from a spiritual as well as economic perspective, as a virtual certainty. Her characters, generally from the Middle Class, frequently fall from it, at times in bizarre fashion, in a form of cultural dispossession. Characters are usually divorced, children are abandoned, and their lives are consumed with fear, often irrational…”

Yup – I say the above pretty much nails the overall feeling in Health.

It is a bit creepy to read about the pre-teen main character going into, and being briefly spied on during a tanning session.

Mid-80s teens tanning?

I can’t seem to remember any girls that were in the 8th or 9th grade with me going to tanning sessions. Sure, I think they spent time at the pool…or in their back yards working on a tan – but not at tanning salons.

Williams does a great job dropping hints of the future “youth-worship” society we live in today.

The kids are working too hard to look older and the adults are working too hard at looking like kids, and there is this weird mid-point where the two ages intersect.

The downward spiral of America…spiritually and economically and you might as well throw in culturally, academically and morally…yup I think we are well enough seeing that now.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Lawns – Mona Simpson

This was a hell of a read.

First, researching the author and finding her connection to Steve Jobs (Apple) and one of the writers for the Simpsons was pretty interesting. Look her up if you’ve got a moment.

Carver picked a winner with this one. Once again he chooses an author that turns over a rock that has too often been left undisturbed and shows us, whether we want to see it or not, the nasty creepy crawly things that dwell in those places of our world/society.

Simpson writes a disturbing story, a story where you are pulled through the scenes and become quite comfortable living in that story only to find yourself really not wanting to be there. You feel pretty uncomfortable about what you are reading. Disturbed, and sad, sorry for the character and sorry for those who have been through what she has.

Then you place the book aside and think about the story, and realize that there’s a good chance that Simpson has written about something that you have thought to be pretty rare…like one in a million rare, but is actually more common than you realize.

You then start to think back to past friends, girlfriends and their behaviors. Could their behaviors have been attributed to something similar to what happens to the main character?

Abuse weather it be physical, sexual or psychological surely must shape the personality of the child/individual being abused. There can be no doubt that there has to be a pretty significant “rub off”.

Too often, I forget to look at the background of a person that I am dealing with. I need to remember to take into account their history. Professionally and if the relationship develops…personally.

That of course takes time and a great deal of communication – which is something that I have long been a huge proponent for many years.

Great story – tough to read, but a great read, one that I won’t soon forget.

Telling – Grace Paley



Here we come across another story by Grace Paley. My first encounter with her can be found here.

This was a difficult story for me to get through. Not for the general story itself… but more for the style of writing.

The story forced me to slow down and read the dialogue…and honestly, it’s been difficult for me to read slowly these days.

Life has me catching up with these stories on a very infrequent schedule and…that sucks.

I miss the reading I was able to do.

And the next question from you should be…

was…?” “well now Nokaj, that implies that there has been some sort of disruption that is preventing you from doing the reading you were doing.”

Yes, the birth of the boy really has thrown our lives into reconstruction.

We/I are discovering what is important in the world now and I just need to realign my priorities and blocks of time.

I was able to get running back into my schedule…now I just need to do the right thing and get this reading and writing there too.

“Problem…well, I’m pretty wiped out by the end of the day.”

Bullshit…reading one of these stories should take at the most 25 minutes.

Paley in her story gave me the speed bump that I needed to determine that I need a new pace, to slow down and focus on what is important. Reading these stories are important and something I need to spend more time on.

I’ve got a shitload of books in this series to get through and at the rate I’m going, I’ll never catch up.

It doesn’t help that I’ve added volumes to my collection on the back end of the series and that if I ever make it to the present year, I hope to include stories from those volumes.

Ahhh…Nokaj…dreaming again.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Invisible Life – Kent Nelson

It’s funny – well, funny in a strange way.

This is just the type of story that M would use as an example if we had a little quarrel over the “type” of story I found pleasure in reading.

Yup – it’s depressing as hell, and as Carver promised, he included a story that shows us what it is like out there in real the world.

This was a great story, one that I could relate to on some levels. One that pissed me off, frightened me and generally aroused a whole set of deep emotions.

And that’s precisely what a good short story should do.

1986 – just past the midpoint of the decade. I was in high school by this time.

As I read the story, I thought back to what my life was like in ’85 and ’86.

A major turning point in my life. A point where I really started to pay attention to – my life.

Things mattered, friends mattered, girls mattered…life was new and fresh.

The story fits the period.

And interestingly enough, it seems to fit nicely into today’s world.

I think there are a great many of us out there attempting to find out where we belong. It’s not like years ago where you were 30 and pretty much knew where our lives were headed for the next 35 years. Today, young people are waiting to get married until they are older, waiting to have children or not have children at all, going back to school for a second or third degree, and changing jobs. Layoffs are happening and folks who are 55 are discovering that they have to transition into a whole new line of work to pay for their kids who are just entering college.

The young people who are waiting are perhaps smart in what they are doing. The big decisions, the big moves right or left are done without the burden of being in a “traditional family” situation. Maybe this is a good thing, a safe thing – at least for “the family”

Of course, when my father decided that he wanted to devote his life to work, and make family secondary, the calendar had just flipped over to 1980. He had a wife and a couple of kids, a house, car, decent career.

Dropped it all and moved into a one bedroom row house in a suburb of Philly.

It’s the selfishness in this story that pisses me off. It reminds me that it exists out there and the act of being selfish causes great ripples in the pond of life.

What frightens me in this story? I suppose it’s the instability and lack of the typical family structure is the most. It’s scary because the events in this story can happen, and they happen every day. What happens when a person’s mind just switches…as if their mind jumps the tracks but rather than tumbling over the cliff into a massive pile of crushed iron and steel, the train continues forward slowly causing damage while also almost unknowingly damaging itself.