i’m alive, i’m alive, i am sooo alive; 12.5.18

Does my left thumb look like I’ve been nightly visited by a flesh-eating moth due to nervous scratching? Sure! But are my grad school applications in? They sure are, and in the immortal words of Aaron Tveit’s character in Next to Normal[see title]

As I’ve been blabbing about to just about anyone who will listen, my plan* is to drown out the encroaching anxiety about whether or not I’ll get in with a whole lot of book reading and movie and TV watching and some fun writing projects (stay tuned!), so let’s dive right in!

*A brief dialogue between myself and my roommate:
Sydney: “Planning takes up…a lot of your life.”
Me: “Yeah…planning…and thinking…”
Syd: “And overthinking!”

Kindred – Octavia E. Butler

Image result for octavia butler kindred book cover

Do you ever read a book and as soon as you finish think “I have to read everything this person has written IMMEDIATELY”? That was me this year with Octavia E. Butler. I’ve talked about her Xenogenesis trilogy a couple of times before (here and here), and though my reading list is extensive these days, I always look forward to one of hers making its way up through my stacks (someday, when I feel particularly secure in my dignity, I’ll detail my extremely complex system of determining what to read next and you can all feel extremely relieved that you don’t live inside my head).

I don’t know if I’ve mentioned it On Here, but historical fiction is usually not my deal [romance novels being a significant exception…]. But SCIENCE-FICTION historical fiction? Actually, that also doesn’t quite describe Kindred–Butler preferred to describe her award-winning, foundational novel of time travel and slave narrative as “grim fantasy,” since the book is far less interested in “hows” and “whys” than it is in “who’s” and “whats.” Dana, the protagonist, is a black woman living in 1976 who, without seeming cause, is suddenly and repeatedly transported back in time to the early 1800’s. She quickly realizes that the trips seem prompted by the life-threatening situations of a white boy (and eventually man) whose survival is pivotal to her own existence.

Butler’s writing is mind-blowing and addictive and her storytelling is moving. Her characters puzzle through their dilemmas and dangers with an organic thoughtfulness, considering deep questions and ideas without sacrificing a compelling plot. I’ll be thinking about this book for a long, long time (and am eager to get my hands on the next of her books on my list) and hopefully you will too!

[Ed. 5-21-19: Not sure why I didn’t TW this for sexual assault the first time.]

A Canticle for Leibowitz – Walter M. Miller

Image result for a canticle for leibowitz

Another foundational text in the world of science/speculative fiction, but I found this one kind of boring! I originally picked it up because of Overdue podcast, and then was extra excited when I read the forward by Mary Doria Russell, the author of The Sparrow, which is quite possibly one of my favorite books of all time.

But mostly…this book made me wish I was reading The Sparrow…or another Octavia Butler book, or anything that was less about Monks Being Concerned. The premise was really fascinating–it takes place in a post-nuclear war world, in which post-fallout knowledge is carefully collected and hoarded by the Order of Leibowitz. The book’s three sections cover several stages in the development of a society (honestly my favorite thing to come out of this book was the word “Texarkana”), particularly when the society is hobbled together from previous civilizations. The book stresses that humans tend to run up against the same questions about technology, humanity, and knowledge over and over…but I found the presentation to be terribly slow to get through.

One Day We’ll All Be Dead and None of This Will Matter – Scaachi Koul

Image result for scaachi koul one day we'll all be dead and none of this will matter

More essay gold! I recognize how ironic the pairing of this book title and the title of this post is, and I choose to believe that Scaachi Koul, if she knew, would be delighted by it.

Essay collections have a special place in my heart, especially when they’re as thoughtfully composed as this one, and this particular blend of humor and poignance is powerfully appealing to me. Koul writes about family, cultural identity, friendship, love, fear, and body hair (among many other topics!) with a lighthearted warmth that leads you through her deep topics like a best friend would. At the end, I felt like I wanted to study this book to see how it worked, like I could write an entire essay myself in praise of how Koul uses seemingly separate pieces to form a cohesive whole, how she uses information or revelations in one essay to lead you to her deeper truth in the next and the more time you spend with her, the deeper you want to go. 

Also, please tell me about your favorite essay collection, if you have one, because they’re one of my favorite forms. And if you DON’T have a favorite essay collection, please let me recommend one to you, because I need people to talk about them with. (Obviously, I will start with this one, but I have more to shout about!)

And to close, a shortlist of Things You Could Do Instead of Texting The Person Your Friends Are Tired Of Hearing About:

  • youtube yoga
  • call your mom
  • have a meal
  • read the Shatner Chatner archives (and subscribe for more goodness!)
  • add me on Goodreads
  • watch The Good Place
  • have an all-caps conversation with a close friend about a subject you’re both ridiculously passionate about (for me and a friend of mine recently it was how Greyhounds Are Shaped Wrongly, so there’s a conversation starter if you’re looking for one)

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