Saturday, January 29, 2011

Charles gave me a gift card to DSW for Christmas, so after my trip to Barnes and Noble, I headed in that direction. I hit three chain clothing stores on the way, and the nicest long-sleeved shirt I could find was a hoodie. (Really? It's 2011, and the uniform of America's youth is a hoodie?)

In case you've never been to one, DSW is a monster-sized shoe warehouse. Usually I head straight for the back to the clearance section, but this time I was armed with a generous gift card. I started up and down the aisles of full-priced shoes. As I glanced over hundreds of pairs, I kept thinking how there should be a place like Build-a-Bear Workshop for grown-ups. Instead it would be called Build-a-Shoe. You could pick out a template for the style and design of the shoe you wanted, then you could pick out the material you wanted. When they had your choices, they could sew up your shoes right there to custom fit your feet.

I couldn't stop thinking about this idea because I had a picture in my mind of what I was looking for, and I couldn't find anything in all those aisles that even came close to what I wanted. There were pretty shoes and comfortable-looking shoes, and even trendy little shoes that cost hundreds of dollars and wouldn't go with one outfit in my closet. I also noticed a trend toward round-toed flats, which doesn't work well at all with my child-sized feet and short legs.

I finally ended up in the clearance section anyway, where I was pleasantly surprised to find lots of shoes I wanted to try on. (I'd only tried on two other pairs in the rest of the store, and I didn't like either.) I ended up with a pair of boots and two sets of cute pumps, all for under a hundred dollars. I was thrilled with my purchases, but it occurred to me that my experience might say something about my personal style -- I'm at least a season or two behind. Maybe that's why I'm not down with the hoodies. Ask me again next fall and I might be all over them.

Music for today: Have to say Tokyo Police Club, who we saw last night. Great show! See them live if you get a chance before they blow up and start selling out arenas.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

I walked into the book store today, and I almost cried.

I'm usually in and out of book stores at least once a month, but I hadn't been since before Christmas. (Charles gave me seven books for Christmas, and one of them was Under the Dome, so I was stocked up for a while.) Imagine my shock when I went into Barnes and Noble today and found that they have removed a huge section of bookshelves, where the best sellers and general fiction used to be. In their place I found the new 'Nook' section of the store. I'm not exaggerating when I say that the new area for e-readers, complete with three testing tables, is as large as the entire Apple store down the street.

I don't have a problem with the technology, and I'm sure I'll give in eventually, but when I go to the book store, I want to see books. I want to hear pages turning in books. I want to smell the fresh paper-and-binding smell of books. (With just a hint of brewing coffee in the background.) And if I'm going to buy something at the book store, it's going to be a book.

I don't know if there were people who felt a strong emotional connection with compact discs. If there were, did they die a little inside every time a music store closed in the mall, or every month when the CD section at Best Buy shrunk until it all but disappeared, only to be replaced with iTunes gift cards? I love music, and I certainly don't miss carrying a case of CDs around. But this was a sad day for me, because the dramatic changes in the publishing industry just walked up and slapped me in the face. I did die a little inside, and the stroll down this path is only the beginning.

Just think, one day my sons will be telling their children, "When I was little, we had these things called books. We read them every night, and each one held its own story, and we kept them on shelves in our rooms. When the power went out and we couldn't use the television or video games or Internet, we could always entertain ourselves with books."

Music for this week: Looking forward to hearing all of Adele's new album!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

I finished reading Under the Dome a few days ago. I usually read a book in two or three days, but it took me about a week to finish this one. At 1000+ pages, I guess that's to be expected. I still haven't given in to an e-reader, so after lugging it around all week, I weighed it. The paperback weighs over three pounds.

First things first, the short, traditional review:

One fine October day, an impenetrable dome falls over Chester's Mill, a small town in Maine. The town's residents (and there are many-- well over 50 named characters) struggle to survive together, while also searching for a way to lift the dome. New in town, former Army man Dale 'Barbie' Barbara butts heads with the town's big politician, used-car salesman Big Jim Rennie. Lots of people die. Honestly, a real summary would take about five pages, so I'll leave it at this. Think Lord of the Flies meets The Truman Show.

Did I like it? Yes. If you like King, especially if you're a fan of the less-gory works, you will like this book. Under the Dome is fast-paced, has believable characters, a satisfying conclusion, and plenty to say about society, politics, religion, the environment, etc., etc., etc.

Now, I've read probably ten books since I last reviewed one here. So why did I choose this one to write about? Because it has been a few days since I finished, and I'm still thinking about it. The weird thing is, I'm not thinking about it in the usual way I think about really poignant books. I was intrigued while I was reading, but once I was done, that was it. I'm glad I read it. But I didn't have an emotional connection. What I'm wondering is, why didn't I?

(Spoiler Alert-- I'm going to mention things that will ruin it for you while I ramble.)

Everything is done right. The descriptions bring vivid mental images. My favorite one-liner visual was something like 'Blood poppies bloomed on the white sheet.' That's not a direct quote, that's just how I remembered it. The characters are real and believable, and the point of view shifts seamlessly, and that is really difficult to do well. My favorite POV was the dog, Horace. It explores the many faces of human cruelty, from the teasing of a smart girl in grade school and catching ants on fire at the playground to torture in war times, power-fueled rape, murder for personal gain, and drug-induced carnage. So why isn't this the Great American Novel?

My husband suggested that it may be impossible for a sci-fi book to be the GAN, because it steps outside a realistic reflection of society. And so I pondered, what if you took that element out? (Big Spoiler Alert)
The dome is put in place by aliens, who laugh at the destruction their toy has caused. What if instead, the dome was placed by a writer? What if the novelist was the one putting the dome over the world he created, and the residents were begging him to let them 'live their little lives'? It would be interesting, but I'm still not sure that would make the difference. Maybe as a society and as individuals, we're just not ready to admit that this degree of violence and degradation is an accurate representation of us. Or maybe our preconceived notions of Mr. King just won't let us see it any other way than through blood-colored glasses.

I hope you are enjoying your new year! Until next time....

Music note of the day: I heard Hiphopopotamus today on the radio. Thanks for the laugh, Flight of the Concords!

Saturday, January 1, 2011

We are so very blessed.

On this day of reflection, 1-1-11, this New Year that somehow feels more palpably new than the past few January firsts have felt, I can't help but think of our wealth of blessings.

Of course I have personal goals for the year ahead -- I resolve to finish writing the novel I started last fall. The stretch goal will be finding an agent to represent it, but you can't put the cart before the horse. I plan to eat healthier and exercise more, like everyone else, I assume.

But my most important resolution is to appreciate the blessings. I have a home. I have food to eat. I have a beautiful, healthy family and wonderful friends. I know that these are not givens, and they must not be taken for granted.

My favorite quote from The Book of Eli is when Eli (Denzel W.) says, "People had more than they needed. We had no idea what was precious and what wasn't. We threw away things people kill each other for now." Oh, to recognize what you have when you have it right in front of you.

In this retrospective mood, with the curtain closing on this Christmas season, I wonder what we've lost by allowing commercialism to take over. I give gifts not because I expect anything in return, but because even though it is easier than ever to communicate with the ones we love, I struggle to express my feelings with words. When I give my dad some silly gadget, I'm really trying to say that I love him and appreciate his help and advice and everything that he does for me. I don't see my nieces and nephews very often, but with each shirt or toy or gift card, I'm really saying that I miss you and I'm proud of the person you're becoming. In the long term, wouldn't the words mean more than the things?

I hope, dear reader, that you had a blessed Christmas and a happy New Year, shared with people you love.

A Few of 2010's Favorites:
Favorite New Band Discovery: Local Natives
Favorite Concert: Muse, US Tour opening in Atlanta
Favorite Movie: Inception
Favorite New TV Show: The Walking Dead
Favorite Author I'd Never Read Before this Year: Steig Larsson