It’s a Contest!

Prizes and all the nitty, gritty particulars will be forthcoming but here is the down and dirty! To enter this contest you must comment here or on my FB adding one author and which book by them you would have me read, under 500 pages, fiction or nonfiction, poetry, etc just no technical manuals. I am picking 12 I have not yet read, or do not remember. If I explain anymore now, it will make it less fun for all of you later. So go recommend!

After the apocalypse I get all the Oreos I want!

 

I hated them, and began, last and worst degradation, to hate myself. I clung to my ferocious habits, yet half despised them; I continued my war against civilization, and yet entertained a wish to belong to it.” from “The Last Man” by Mary Shelley.
Triple Double Stuff Oreos are proof that vegan food can be totally unhealthy; it is this non-food food that have, with the demise of the Hostess Twinkie, become my first choice for post-apocalyptic binges. Yup, I think about those things even while eating cookies and tea. I have been sort of obsessed with apocalypse and isolation since childhood. Anybody else remember “On the Beach” the Kramer movie that saps up and dumbs down the Shute’s book of the same name (with still pretty spectacular results I must add but as usual, the book is better.) I do. I was much too young to understand all the relational nuances I got watching it as an adult, but I got it, and it stuck with me the same way Hitchcock’s “The Birds” did.
Apocalypse and isolation, people living outside the structures of civilization, oh and dystopia; these are always my favorite stories even today, but as a child and adolescent, even more so. From Robinson Crusoe to Swiss Family Robinson, the tails of Captain Nemo, “My Side of the Mountain,” or the truly apocalyptic ones like “The Scarlet Plague” by Jack London, “Earth Abides” by George Stewart, or “A Canticle for Leibowitz”, “Alas, Babylon,” “Shadow on the Hearth” or in its own way “Planet of the Apes.” these and the fantasy stories were the works I could not get enough of, weedling the librarian to get me copies to check out (not available in the children’s section my card was valid in) or reading them behind the paperback shelves in the 5 and Dime. (They never kicked me out, although I rarely bought more than my 10 cent weekly milk money worth of candy; in return, I never stole a book from them, or anything else for that matter.)

When I was still pretty young and on a car trip to My Grandma Clegg’s; my little brother was on the way because we kept having to stop for Mommy to pee and Roxanne always got to hold the baby who couldn’t quite stand, so I’d say maybe 5; I told my family that when I grew up I wanted to go live on an “uninhibited” island, I meant uninhabited but my vocabulary often got ahead of my pronunciation. I didn’t realize why they were all laughing so loudly, until my oldest sister felt compelled to explain the difference in the most shaming way possible, however I did understand that they were illustrating why I wished to live away from everyone and why I have always been certain the apocalypse would come.

I still don’t get meanness; I still believe in love, compassion and kindness. In fact one of my loves of classics like Verne’s tales of Nemo and Shelley’s “Last Man” stems from their humanist faith that love can change and redeem a hard and angry heart, however both authors having moved past their era’s romanticism know that a rescued heart can still cease to beat inside an old or battered body and the delineation of good/bad/right/wrong is not as simple as birth, power, money or spiritual affiliation. In their books science is both friend and foe, the problem and the answer; just like many of my favorite modern novels.

They say “Last Man” is the first post-apocalyptic novel, but I posit it is far from the first apocalypse story. I suggest Gilgamesh and Noah are both stories of apocalypse, and any well read geek will realize I have also skipped over the writer’s we all read in school like Vonnegut and Bradbury, or any of the external act ends of the world, or the “cozy” ends of the world. Pandemic or nuclear holocaust or environmental destruction/infrastructure failure are my obsession. Man ends through his own inattention and acts of unkindness; and begins anew if any beginning is allowed (not all books allow our species to survive) because of the heroine/hero’s ability to see possibility and practice compassion.

And always, always the story is accompanied by the Cerdd Dant harp of isolation.

If you are one of the many modern readers who are a bit obsessed with zombies and plagues and isolation and the end of the world, go read “Last Man,” you will thank me later. Also if you are unfamiliar with any other titles here I can thoroughly recommend them.

What is your favorite post-apocalyptic novel? I always can use another good book!

By the way, if we both survive the apocalypse, I still get all the Oreos I want, but since there will be many Oreos and only us left, no worries, there will be some for you as well!

Thriving…

So I can honestly say that “thriving” is not the first word that came to mind when I put blogging on my list of things I choose to do today, but “Thrive” is my “word of 2013”.  My first word was actually “overwhelmed.” “Overwhelmed” was also my first conscious thought upon waking,  I almost rolled back over, snuggled with my dogs and went back to sleep; running back into my less than restful dreams, running away from the miasma of sadness, pain and responsibilities looming within that cloudy word. Key word is “almost”; instead I got up and put on my running clothes. If I was gonna run, it was going to be toward something, two somethings actually. I cut two carrots with one knife when I run in the morning. My dogs get some much needed exercise and attention, and I get healthier heart and lungs (as well as firmer thighs, so OK 2.5.)

I made my list of things to do today in my head as I started to walk. Like tangled yarn, I pulled the unusable pieces of my life apart and neatly wound tasks back up on themselves looking for the thread that would begin this day in a pattern with which I could live.  Organizing and prioritizing kept me from focusing on the pain in my hips and feet.  I know this pain, and know it is the kind I have to run through (as opposed to the kind I get in my knee or lungs that say walk awhile). I set my Endomondo goal as 3 miles (5K) and started to trot  with Cozi. By half a mile I was in my zone, no longer hurting or planning but just loving the sound and smell of the infant day.  “I can do this easy,” I though, but Cozi had other ideas.

I have been neglecting my four legged children as seriously as I have been neglecting myself and everything else, and his old dog body had had enough at 1 mile and Cozi began sitting down and staring at me about every half block. Cozi is one hundred and seven pounds of very adorable, very stubborn giant golden retriever  so I called it good and took him home. I then put Yeager on leash. Where neglect makes Cozi drag, neglect makes Yeager lunge. He and I spent 20 minutes walking circles (if you have ever leash trained a labrador retriever to heel, you can relate to this) and almost making it to the end of the block.  I fell short of my 5K, but I did my morning run. Achievement unlocked. Next it was time to physically write my list.

My list does two things, it helps me remember and it helps me focus.  I start the list with my word of the year. That is my focus. Focus is what makes plans and goals form from that miasma of “overwhelmed” into a restful sleep of I am achieving. I struggle each day to remember to not trade what I want most, for what I want in the moment, hence my word, “Thrive” at the top of the list.  Then I write everything I think I need to do, or want to do today. Also to help with focus, if something comes to mind as I am doing something else I add it to the list and go back to what I was doing until it is completed.

So “Thrive!,” I write. What that word means to me would be a whole blog in itself and today’s writing time is almost over so I can’t go into it now, just suffice it to say that for me thriving encompasses a particular picture of health, my religion of kindness, a commitment to building connection, a new commitment to integrity and to intellectual growth.  Blogging is my brief ode to connection today, as today is my first day home without any outside obligation in more than two months and I plan to recharge my seriously depleted introvert battery by not going anywhere or talking to anyone if  I can help it.  I need time alone as much as I need social connection to thrive, once again, two carrots with one knife

Anyway, Back to thriving, having a word for the year is something I borrowed/learned from one of my favorite genre writers, Debbie Maccomber. A romance writer of that kind of  book I generally refer to as a bag of verbal potato chips, where the vocabulary requires no dictionary. A reader can always spot genre fiction because the plot is interspersed every third page with sucking wounds or sucking face.  Like potato chips, genre fiction is addictive, I keep reading just five more pages until the whole book is devoured in one sitting. It amuses my slightly snobbish mind that Ms. Maccomber’s mental snack food has also been the source of two of my more useful self-help skills, that of the 20 Wishes Book and the Word of the Year. Maybe snacks of the right quality, consumed in moderation do have a place in my diet.

THRIVE. 

I could digress here into a hundred things that have been weeds in my garden of thrive, and why I am here a week into April, finally writing about it, but that would not help you or me, or anyone really. What we give energy to grows stronger, so instead I will talk about thriving.

Tomorrow.

My timer has gone off and another thing “thriving” around here is a mess of weeds in the front yard so I am off to pull them. Will check back later with my crock-pot recipe and any updates on this SOFT (Slow Old Fat Try-athlete) training achievements today. And FTR, I have been to the gym Monday and Wednesday and lifted weights!

 

Looking for a little creative insanity for myself….thoughts on life and Don Quixote

I have drafts all over the place on this site and so few new posts. I will admit to being in a blue funk. Death has been house sharing with me, or so it seems the last couple years. Family members and close friends, and now my young patient have all stepped out of life, leaving small rents in the fabric of my heart and universe. All this has happened while I have survived against the odds and I have been given a new lease on life.

So many times, when the news of another death has reached my ears, have I questioned why them and not me and tried to bargain for a do over. “It should have been me,” I tell my deity  “I have had a great life, pretty much done my bucket list so thoroughly I had to make new lists. No one’s life would be as impacted by my absence as the large hole this death has left.” Of course, I may tell my gods that, but I don’t know that for sure either. “Truly,” I say,  “no one really depends on me these days with all my children grown and independent; I have no significant other, no one sharing my heart or bed or paycheck, sometimes I go days with all my conversations work or retail related.”

That is what I tell them.

And nine months ago, in an interview with someone I still hope to ghost write a memoir for (on hold due to me, not him), one simple phrase knocked me to the ground and made me realize that I had some serious work to do again. That is when the crying really started. I made myself as small and as distant from everyone as only a compassionate person can, and in doing so had somehow stopped really living my inner life. I was Sancho not Don Quixote. I was outwardly still tilting at windmills in hope of an outcome, but knowing they were windmills, so I tried to find ways to avoid the bruises, the pain and the tears.

Commitment to a dream is a special kind of creative insanity. An important feature of all the happiest characters in Cervantes extensive literary work is their adherence to a path that has little or no reason to it. Another important feature of their paths is the number of times they are beaten, bloodied, robbed or otherwise betrayed before just as randomly rewarded. Joy (survival) is merely the acceptance of their having survived another day to pick up their lance and shield and golden helmet (shaving basin) to again serve that which they love.

Two weeks ago today, a smile and a laugh that was worth getting up and getting dressed for (on even the worst day,) was permanently taken out of  life.  I don’t know if I will ever be able to sing “Eeesny Weensy Spider” again dry eyed. I miss him terribly and my heart breaks for his mother and family. Ironically it was the chain of “bad” things happening in my life 2009 and 2010 that led me to this home, this job, and that young man and his brother and their amazing family.

I dreamed about him last night. We were all going to someplace, they sent me ahead to set up the oxygen and equipment, the family was told they had to travel in their own vehicle. (FTR, their mom would never have let them out of her sight like this but it was a dream) and when they got there both wheelchairs were empty. The chairs were being pushed through the mall to the facility by two attendants (my youngest sister and oldest sister, a whole other story). I freaked out and ran back to find them, the little boy who just died was on the floor, and stood up, he was a little taller than me. He hugged me, and then pushed me away, “Go find T****,” he said, “he needs you now, I don’t.” Then he laughed and said, “Thank you,” winked, and sang with hands “and the stupid little spider went up the spout again.” He strolled away tossing over his shoulder “Find T**** and then get back before my Mom kills somebody for losing us.”  A little further on I found T**** and started yelling for someone to help, for someone to go to the nursing home at the end of the mall and get a wheelchair, get the family, but everyone had an excuse for why they couldn’t help, and he was laughing but he had no oxygen so time was of the essence; I picked him up and started carrying him. Each time I thought I would drop him, a chair showed up for us to rest in, and then as I came around the corner I found his sister T******, and his Mom V******* and they said there were no wheelchairs but they had an office chair, the rolling kind.  I sat in it and held him and they rolled me up the stairs and to where his bed was. It was hairy but he was okay. I told his mom and sister that D***** was out walking in the mall, and they set out to find him as I settled T**** and told him we wouldn’t be seeing D***** again, that he was all better now. I woke up crying. I cried a few times writing this.

I don’t know how long this pot of Tear Soup will need to stew, and I don’t know what other losses I will face. I do know this year will continue to be challenging as I deal with the sad of multiple losses and legally address some of the things that have broken me in the far past.

What I do know is that I am singing for the dragons again, and this may look like a broken shaving basin to you but I can see that it IS the Golden Helmet of Mambrino.

In more pedantic terms, I will choose to hope and dream as I pick up the tools I acquired in PCT and grief therapy, recommit one meal at a time to healthy, kind diet; train for another race; serve as a nurse where the universe sends me; use my gift of words and laughter when opportunity permits; and most importantly, be open to the risk and love.

I would not trade a single moment I had with any of those I have lost, to avoid the emotional carpeting their death has brought.

Today my house is hairier and messier than ever, my Wednesday lunch containers are in bits about the yard (yes I forgot my lunch again, and the dogs managed to unzip the lunchpack and pull everything out while not destroying the bag, I need a video camera for when I am gone!), I have dishes to do, costume completion and knitting calling my name, as well as some cooking and baking for Fairhaven to fit in my day. So I will set this pot on the back burner for awhile, soup can be ignored for hours. I know it will call me back for a stir or two today, and there are many pots more to be made before it becomes just a seasonal dish again, but for now I am done with my Tear Soup. Thank-you for listening and sharing a dish if you read this whole blog, and I promise a better offering tomorrow. I have not yet done my annual itinerary for Fairhaven visitors and I have some lovely recipes just waiting to be shared.

 

If you have never read “Tear Soup” by Pat Schwiebert and Chuck DeKlyen, it is a children’s book I recommend for all ages dealing with loss, or dealing with someone who has had a loss. You can buy your own copy at http://changinghands.com/.

Namaste.

 

 

Daniel Defoe, despicable moral ambivalent or daring, dogged dreamer?

I first met Defoe (who was actually born Daniel Foe, adding the more aristrocratic “de” to separate himself from his very common father a tallow chandler) in a Children’s Illustrated Classics Robinson Crusoe. For those born to late to experience these wonderful introduction to the great stories of literature, they were chapter books with every few pages a lovely pencil action shot or charming evocative landscape. The pictures were part of the story, leading me both towards the original authors works and comic books. The footprint will stay forever with me, both in printed word and line drawing.

I found him again as a history and journalism enthusiast in my early adulthood, but as then I found the world so clearly devided between the good guys and the bad guys, his apparent ambivalence and choice to survive at all costs did not endear him to me even if he was one of the fathers of the novel and of modern journalism.

In this century Mr Defoe and I became reacquainted through the works of one of the great storytellers of this century, James A Owen. I compare his literary realities to Tolkien and Lewis.  In another time he would certainly have been an Inkling. If you have not read the series yet, begin now. If you have read them, then begin again as the last volume appears later this year.

In the Imaginarium Geographica series, that begins with “Here There Be Dragons,” Defoe is somewhat of a villain  although his real life adventures as a spy have always made me wonder of his true allegiance.  Like the Potter series, or most aptly referenced here “The Lord of the Rings” and “The Chronicles of Narnia”, good and evil are most clearly delineated at the start and grow more shades of gray as the story progresses.

I will reread Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe again but thought to try his more controversial novel and am just about to finish “The Fortunes and Misfortunes of  the Famous Moll Flanders,” and have to says I am pleasantly surprised at the strong feminist tone of this novel and cannot wait to find a good biography of the man to help flesh out my picture of him. I still think he was a man whose instinct to survive was greater than his ethical adherence, whose need to be admired, liked and seen as “somebody” was bent by a youth of being a “nobody” and led to many of his own misfortunes. However, it was that uncanny ability to survive and thrive in a time of great change and social turmoil that helped bring into fruition the modern novel and journalism so I can only be grateful.

I recommend “Robinson Crusoe” for the easier and more moving read (yes, I have read the unabridged version and was just as enthralled) but recommend “Moll Flanders” for its social context and for those who like reality TV, I mean this was the Jersey Shore of its time!

Most importantly I recommend reading, turn off the TV tonight and open a book, any book, and let the screen in your mind light up with all the wonderful pictures and places the words can lead you. I have started a Book Club over on FaceBook called the “Imaginarium Geographica Classics Club” that I hope you all will join. Pick any author running about those pages and one book he wrote and add it to the comments section on the page. An exciting contest is soon to be revealed revolving around these books and authors.

A Pot of Tea, a good book and a beautiful sunrise….

I am currently sipping a deliciously wonderful blended chamomile tea, but it is more than the 2-methylbutyl angelate and isobutyl angelate creating a chemical sense of calm this morning. This is a good morning. A sunrise worthy of a thousand paintings but inexpressible in words played out its music from first pink note to golden crescendo as I drove to my friends house. Then my weekly appointment at the VA hospital helped reassure me that the process is worth the pain, and now I am at Terra Java.

Terra Java is tucked into a strip mall at 3619 East Indian School Road and everything here,  beverages, food and service, are as wonderful as the sunrise.  Foods are available to fit all diet types including a vegan, gluten-free “Wow” bar that is appropriately named.

Wow, that is as far as I got last week before I couldn’t sit still any longer. I was just too excited because later that day I would get to meet yet another author I really admire. Now I don’t go all fan girl or anything but I truly do enjoy listening to authors I love talk in person, gives me a chance to see if I like them as well as I like their characters. Cherie Priest was no disappointment and as an added bonus Sam Sykes was there as well.

All I can say about last Wednesday was that it was as near perfect a day as the world can bless me with and it all started at Terra Java. Go check them out, visit the amazing collectible bookstore and absolutely perfect antiques mall and your day might just be as wonderful and magic.

Hands in the air, screaming all the way!

What is  “How to ride a roller coaster,” Alex.

September was one of those amazing, scary and fun roller coasters rides I loved when I was young; October has been more like the flume ride where the bumps are milder and the thrill comes from cold water suddenly splashed in your face. Anyway, very little blogging has occurred.

So the important questions on everyone’s mind (although my friend  informed me when we were hanging out last month that she never reads my blog, nor do the other members of our little group, so actually I guess every one’s minds but the group of my closest friends; and before you judge us not friends anymore, realize every Ya Ya Sisterhood grows in different directions eventually, and this in no way precludes continued friendship) is what am I reading, watching and eating.

‘What I Am Reading” is easiest to answer. I will sheepishly admit (“sheep”ishly because my purchase was completely related to marketing hype) I am half way through JK Rowling’s newest adult novel ” Casual Vacancy”.  Rowling’s ability to deliver well rounded and surprising characters in a much less magical setting (Novel is set in modern England,  but for a few vocabulary changes it could just as easily be set in Connecticut or Arizona)  is the highlight so far, and it is still rating a 4 to 5 but I am holding out for a happy ending. I will keep you posted.

I am also rereading Charles Dicken’s “Nicholas Nickelby”, the entire plot just seemed appropriate in the current economic and political climate and Dicken’s delectable word casseroles never disappoint! With his humorous mix of understatement, grandiosity and verbal seasoning, I  easily laugh at the moral-less and manipulative shenanigans in his books while their character twins infuriate me in the current news.

My spiritual book of the day is the Dalai Lama’s “How to See Yourself as you Truly Are”, it is the right book at the right time. In simple concrete meditations his holiness illustrates the emptiness of enlightenment while proving “nothing” is anything but nihilism.

My cookbook of the day is “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Vegan Baking” as I practice even more and new techniques to make my holiday favorites like pumpkin pie deliciously vegan friendly. Nothing to post yet yet in the way of adapted recipes, but soon…

So that is what I am reading…

What am I watching? Well currently I am watching bugs and roadrunners eat my few squash that appeared….*sad sigh* My plants this fall are big and green and healthy with multiple blossoms but few fruit, and those flora that fruited are being eaten by local fauna.This homesteading experiment thingy makes me truly appreciate the work and luck involved in feeding oneself just a century ago.

But, usually here I have a new favorite TV show or lesser known movie that made me incredibly happy and I want to share. However, there just isn’t a single new one that I can justifiably say you “must see!” However an old favorite from the early 1990’s finally made it onto DVD, so my “watch it” suggestion for this blog is “Leaving Normal” which will forever be my favorite “women’s” movie. I also love “Boys on the Side” and “Fried Green Tomatoes” but they are not my favorites because, although in a less dramatic way, both of these movies still echo the Medea Myth glaringly retold in that decade’s critically lauded ‘women’s” film “Thelma and Louise.” The acting is lovely, the story a bit magical and what I love best about “Leaving Normal” is that no woman has to die just because she is strong and just because she doesn’t make pleasing men or satisfying society her first priority. Go watch it, you will love it too, I promise.

And finally, What am I eating? Well that has to be a whole other blog since my writing time is up for the day….but definitely a recipe and appropriate rambling will appear this week.

Namaste my friends…

Read, listen, enjoy, and ya know, talk back!

Here is the promised blog, appearing on the actual day I promised it and not only offering a tasty selection of fashion, travel and writing blogs I peruse and recommend, but also a wonderful, and equally tasty (as those who celebrated Amie’s birthday already know) and extremely versatile vegan crock  pot concoction.

May I also recommend listening to this award show while reading todays blog, or making the chili, or just just sitting smiling and alternately reminiscing of filkers, and authors known and salivating over all the new stuff out there yet to be discovered, http://www.ustream.tv/recorded/25307882, I admit to more of the first, I am after all, mature (code for getting old.)

No geek ever looked so good as one taking fashion advice from the beautiful blonde who pens this blog http://2morrowsdress.com/, and her advice stands strong for those who walk in the normal ways of the world as well. This blog has all kinds of useful advice about choosing, caring for and ways to wear the one thing we all have in common, clothing! From her “little white dress” to her white shirt dilemna I (the fashion challenged costume maker) have enjoyed and employed Jen’s advice. Look for the same brevity and classy taste in her entertainment blog http://jentheredonethat.com/ .

For writer’s or readers of fantasy or of  life fiction check out the blog by novelist Ann Videan  http://anvidean.com. Music is a recurrent theme in her writing, both blogs and novels. Her blog is also a great place to pick up a few marketing tips for those trying to court fame and fortune as a professional pen wielder. On the same wavelength, but perhaps better known among fantasy fans is one of my other favorite author’s blog http://windling.typepad.com/blog/. (I know, if you took my advice you are listening to *gasp* science fiction awards while reading about fantasy blogs, I am sorry if this is jarring, but I am totally a “soup” person. If you don’t know what tha means, feel free to ask, and I will happily explain.)

Totally unrelated blogs but incredibly fascinating (to me at least) http://www.dailycoyote.net/  and http://honeyrockdawn.com/ both from the same lady who is living one of my dreams (but we only have one life so I happily live the one I am in and find blogs that allow me to vicariously live the other dreams). Of course there are always two of my  favorite go to sites: http://whatever.scalzi.com/ , http://wilwheaton.typepad.com/  , reflecting another life I chose not to lead.

Now if you are still with me and haven’t clicked off and become lost in one of these amazing blogs, here is my newest vegan creation, I call it “2 hours till dinner and still lots to do”

Plug in your crock pot or slow cooker, low heat.

Chop a small onion and one or two green peppers into small (1cm or less) pieces. Put two-three tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil in a cast iron skillet (enough to lightly cover the bottom) and as it gets warm toss in the onions first and stir with a wooden spoon. When the onions become translucent add the peppers (and 1 cup mushrooms if you have them and you know your intended audience likes them) and cook another minute or two, turn off the skillet heat if on an electric stove, to very low flame if gas, and press in one clove of garlic, stir and let them all sit together as you stir together 4 cups hot water, a small can of organic tomato paste, two cubes of vegan bullion, and 1 tsp fresh chili powder in the warm crock pot. Add 1 can organic black beans rinsed and drained, or 2 cups of home cooked black beans. Dump in the lovely mixture of onions and peppers, stir again. Add 1 1/2 cups of Trader Joe’s organic red quinoa, OR add 1/2 cup organic red quinoa and 1 cup Trader Joe’s harvest Grains Blend, OR add 1/2 cup organic red quinoa, 1/2 cup couscous, and 1/2 cup yellow lentils. Close the lid and cook for 1.5 to 2 hours (quinoa unfurled and beans soft). Serve with warm crusty bread, or corn chips and enjoy!

finally, where I got my chile powder recipe, or buy a fresh one if not so motivated http://video.about.com/americanfood/How-to-Make-Chili-Powder.htm

 

 

A book that won’t let me go

This month our book club read the dystopian masterpiece by Japanese born/British citizen Kazuo Ishiguro “Never Let me Go”. It, along with his first two novels  “An Artist of the Floating World” and “A Pale View of Hills” have been on my “must read” list for literally years (since its release in 2005.) I love the depth and breadth of his literary imagination and wanted to know all he had to offer, but like so many other things that I knew I would not only enjoy but would also be good for me, like learning to ride abike, or really swim laps, or grow my own organic vegetables, or make a seven-day backpacking trip, I never seemed to get around to it until outside forces motivated me.

I had even owned the book. The lovely green paperback kept migrating to my “read it now” shelf, but then some new shiny author would draw me into their back list with their tantalizing prose and I would forget the love affair I had with Ishiguru’s telling. Eventually I lent it to someone who had seen the movie and it disappeared into that place books without nameplates in them always seem to go. You know that place of not remembering exactly who it is lent it to, and them not remembering where they borrowed it from either. In all fairness I have two books like that on my shelf, books I know I did not purchase but do not know from whom they came.

Having “Never Let me Go” selected for August was the impetus to repurchase and finally read this literary sci-fi coming of age story. Told in the first person by one of the students of an unusual private school which was created as an ethical question as much as an answer, this book covers everything from disenfranchisement based on birth (particularly pertinent in the face of current class wars) to the meaning of mortality. In the stories climax I was reminded of the current “morality” wars as well, when those who deemed themselves worthy to ascertain the presence or absence of souls in other life forms or revealed to be the most soulless and self-serving.

This novel truly won’t let me go, my mind keeps returning to the story and its author and how he elegantly tells in the fictional lives of three young students all the horror and redemption humanity is capable of committing.

Kazuo Ishiguro was born in Nagasaki, Japan in 1954, his family moved to England when he was 6 years old. The cultural questions of both homes are reflected in this novel. One’s family could not be from Nagasaki in the 1950’s and not be gravely aware of how ethics are forgotten in the pursuit of  “greater good”; and England in the 1960’s was suffering the culmination of the Post-war class crisis as well as a wholesale abandonment of religion. Much was being made of  the “winds of change” freeing women, empowering the poor, allowing the working classes to get their own piece of the pie. The “Work hard, do what you are told and you will be aptly rewarded ” ethos began to crumble under a new bottom line, and then its inspired social programs all fell apart as violent student protests and numerous race riots turned the tide again, reimposing stringent class lines  based now more on new money than old blood. In this century, the use of sweatshop labour in non-English countries to let western consumers “have it all”; the destruction and raping of natural resources in third world countries so growth can continuously be supported are easily analogous to the organs being cut from the “donors” until they complete.

In the tradition of other great authors of fictional social commentary such as Swift, Twain or Orwell, Ishiguro uses an engaging story to (hopefully) awaken the reader to look at life and their own choices just a little differently. As for me, I will get to his other books sooner now, and probably reread his later ones as well.

I am glad that another “meant to” has become an “I have.” I do swim and bike now, ate my first “homegrown in Arizona” organic vegetables this summer, have new seedlings ready to plant and will begin backpack daytrips as soon as it cools down a bit here.  As this book reminds me, we all “complete,” so I will continue to carpe my diem, and as I run and bike and dig in the soil today I know bits of this book will come floating back to my consciousness again with some new resonance, for this is truly a book that will “Never Let me Go.”

 

Where everyone knows your name.

“Making your way in the world today takes everything you’ve got.

Taking a break from your worries, sure would help alot

Wouldn’t you like to get away?

Sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name

And they’re always glad you came

You wanna be where you can see our troubles are all the same, you wanna go..”

I may have a bit of Cliff Claven in me as I am known to spew out random factoids,  and I have a bit of Norms love of quips and his singlemindedness, but lucky for me, my happy place is not a bar and my solace is not a beer.  It was a sunny, muggy Sunday that needed a breath of cool fresh air, and I had some presents for July birthdays and an anniversary waiting at the special order counter,  so of course I made my way with my roommate to my own version of Cheers yesterday, a local bookstore.

Now my metaphorical barstool is parked at “Changing Hands” in Tempe, AZ (http://www.changinghands.com/) where I am afraid I spend as much money though less time than Cliff or Norm did. Changing Hands has everything a Sunday afternoon could want old books, new books, red books, blue books; the gift section has quippy bumper stickers and smell-tastic scents of candles, incense and wholesome body products, eclectic magazines of every ilk and racks of cards and all this bounty shares space with Wildflower Breads bistro where I and my newest conquest can get to know each other one chapter at a time over tea and crumpets or soup and salad, and the people there know my name. My “Cheers” is Changing Hands, so I sing it highest praises, but any small bookstore worth its salt can become everything promised in that famous 80’s theme song. Bonus points if they also buy back used book buddies and give credit to meet new print potentials like Changing Hands.

Now there is a science to buying back books that I am not privy to, its mysteries are as complicated as dating. So let it be said here and now, that I cannot predict which and what will leave a bag or box to garner credit and which will return again home to try their luck somewhere else or perhaps be left when one is taken at some coffee shop somewhere. Still some books once read just won’t be read again, and deserve to try their luck with other readers, not hoarded and neglected on the shelf just to prove someones literary prowess, and well used books and used book prices mean I can try authors I am just wondering or pick up missed backstock titles on my personal favorites.

Usually I leave Changing Hands with one or more books I had not even heard about before, maybe one I had heard about but was undecided on its purchase until one of the knowledgeable and friendly associates waxed poetic on its charms and I was compelled to make it mine, and one or two books they have ordered for me. Yesterday I (as always) had a budget and presents to purchase, and one book whose author I had heard on NPR but I could not remember the title or the guys name. That’s what else the associates at Changing Hands excel at, getting me exactly what I want, when all I remember is that it’s this big (insert appropriate hand motions), blue and recently reviewed on _______(fill in with radio or TV show). O.K.,  yesterday I actually said to the gentleman helping me (who is Changing Hands version of Woody), “Just came out in paperback,  Zone something I think, zombies?” and he took me right to the shelf.

“Unfortunately too soon for a used copy,” he said with a smile, “and you really should go to NPR and check out his interview.” I like that, they do know me there, know I am a book glutton so every book I buy used is a few more dollars to get my fries-with-that backstock paperback of a classic or a new favorite author, and they know that I love to listen to authors talk.

I have sat at Changing hands and listened to numerous authors I already loved and knew like Christopher Moore and James Owen, and met new authors I now follow rabidly like Kevin Hearne.  If you live in the East Valley or you will be visiting our area, their calendar is always chock full of delicious little goodies for all flavors and ages of readers.

All this being said, it is truly the talent at my bookstore, yes I do think of it as mine, I buy from them first if possible in all instances for print and e-books, that make my visits feel as warm and complete as an Emmy winning Cheers episode.  I started to list their names and the books   and authors with whom I now had real relationships with because of Changing Hand friends; you know the kind that’s not just a one book deal, but you keep coming back each time they publish, wanting more than they can give, the kind that keep you up late night with characters that populate your sleeping dreams and monopolize your waking hours, and five hundred words later and not nearly finished I realized I was forgetting two very important names,  because I am not the best at names, better at faces, so I deleted the specifics, but many of the books and authors have appeared or will appear in the coming weeks on this blog. But you know who you are, and I do indeed thank you. You make lives better one book at a time!

Now its time for the closing credits and another commercial or two http://changinghands.com/  and not because its related, commercials do not have to be related, but because it is the most awesome blog,  especially today 7/22/2012  http://whatever.scalzi.com/ and because two of the books I bought yesterday were his books. “Rough Guide to the Universe” is a5th anniversary present to my son and DIL who always shoot for the stars and manage to help others along the way see the stars within themselves (and who happen to own a really nice telescope) and I also left with yet another copy of “Old Man’s War,” I always give mine away it seems, because I,  like the staff at Changing Hands, share the joy found in a perfect first sentence followed by an even better story line and always want to share it.

If you don’t live local, they ship and sell e-books, but better yet find the local place you can make yours at http://www.indiebound.org/indie-store-finder.