reading

NaNoWriMo and Other Thoughts

I feel remiss for failing to write a single post in three months. I have plenty of excuses, but when it comes to writing, you really do have to make time for it and I’ve let life get in the way.

That said, I read Write on the River’s blog post for National Novel Writing Month and recalled that participating in NaNoWriMo was a goal I had set for myself earlier this year. I signed up, but couldn’t help feeling that my striving for a word count would have absolutely no merit in terms of quality. Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s a great initiative that motivates writers who otherwise wouldn’t be writing, but for me, perhaps it’s just NaWriMo.

I have two not-so-new novels that I think will really help me get my footing. I skimmed through Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar for inspiration while I was working on my 1960’s set thesis, but actually went out and bought my own copy as I want to read it a little more intensely this time, and I think it’s just one of those novels you can re-read every couple of years. Also, to build more ground for me to stand on philosophically, I picked up a copy of Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis. This wasn’t an impulse buy–two Sundays ago I caught a showing of “Freud’s Last Session,” a really great production of a very deliberate script that pits Sigmund Freud against C.S. Lewis in a series of religious debates. Although there is no clear winner, in the final moments of the play both parties agree that to not push, argue with, and challenge each other is the greater sin. I was brought up 100% Lutheran all the way through high school, and have since struggled to identify what I believe with ten plus years of adult life behind me. What I like about Lewis is that he doesn’t preach or lecture, but he legitimately makes a logical case for faith that is hard to disagree with. I don’t really intend to make any of my characters religious, but self discovery has never hurt my writing!

For all who are participating, happy NaNoWriMo, and good luck!

Building A Reading List

Having undergone a significant transition in my life–marriage!–I am finding myself with the amount of spare time that will allow me to get in more reading time. I’ve looked at a few lists of the greatest American novels, but I can’t quite commit to one or another because I find the lists either exclude things I’ve always wanted to read, or they include books and authors I’m absolutely not interested in. Now I know the main purpose of a reading list is to put options in front of you that you might not have considered on your own, but I feel that there are so many classics, contemporary and otherwise, that I first want to build a strong foundation in.

Off the heels of a British novel course I took last spring, I’m interested in moving forward with a more modern novel, and I would like to fill in my repertoire with American literature for a while.

I’m starting with Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand. It’s a doozy of a book, but I bought it years ago and I think I’ve read the first hundred pages or so about four times. Always intriguing, but life gets in the way.

If you can recommend a list of classic American novels, or if you have a few that you recommend, please share!

TIME Magazine’s Top 100 English Language Novels since 1923

Modern Library: 100 Best Novels (Board and Reader’s Picks)

The American Scholar: 100 Best American Novels by David Handlin

The Best I Can

A Rondeau…

My mom said “do the best you can”
back when I was nine or ten.
It recently occurred to me
that my “best” is an anomaly,
something to strive for now and then.

Who works magic time and again?
Can’t I say I don’t give a damn
without flinching or feeling guilty?
I mostly do the best I can…

I work hard and I love my man,
I hold doors and I follow the plan.
I read books and I earned my degree,
I tell jokes and I’m drug free.
I eat fries and I drive a sedan.
I am doing the best I can.

***No, that is not me in the photo. That is a cool French girl photographed by Christopher Hue.

Happy Birthday, Jane Austen

Jane Austen (1775 – 1878) is a writer who needs no introduction. It may be surprising to some to learn that the woman only wrote six full length novels in her lifetime (in addition to shorter fiction). Austen’s novels transport the reader to another time completely. In her world, parents would labor to find an eligible bachelor with money and social status to marry their daughters off to. Quite a contrast from today’s parents, who may toil finding the perfect college or condo so their daughters can start their lives. Regardless, Austen’s writing is clever, honest, original, and truly withstands the test of time in spite of the fact that she wasn’t famous during her lifetime. The current Jane Austen fan base is a die hard bunch, and I’m sure the author would have been pleased to know that her words continue to delight new generations of female readers.

Austen certainly has a way with words…

“We have all a better guide in ourselves, if we would attend to it, than any other person can be.”

“I do not want people to be agreeable, as it saves me the trouble of liking them a great deal.”

“Where so many hours have been spent in convincing myself that I am right, is there not some reason to fear I may be wrong?”

“Let other pens dwell on guilt and misery.”

“An artist cannot do anything slovenly.”

“The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid.”