Sunday, August 29, 2010

"How to Live Safely in a Science Fiction Universe" by Charles Yu - A Book Review

I read this book last week and reviewed it at Amazon yesterday.  It's a must-read book.  It comes out on September 7.  I've never read a book quite like this one.  And that alone blew my mind because I read hundreds of book every year.  It's like Charles Yu (both the author and the name of the Protagonist) reinvented language and shaped it to become this story.  If you're looking for something new & exciting to read that defies genre, then definitely check out this book.

Here's my review:

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"I loved this awesome book. It's a word-lover's feast! It blew my mind, literally. I'm a literature person, not a science person at all, but that didn't matter much. I did Google a few words, but mostly I figured out things in context. My vocabulary is definitely larger. That's always a plus when reading a fabulous book: it takes you to places you've never been. And that's an understatement with this spectacular little tome.

The story is lyrical, exciting, surprising, elegant, funny, sad and ultimately, wise. It's a masterpiece of imagination that demands to be read with an open mind because the lines between past, present and future often blur or completely disappear. I found myself in an unexplored literary landscape marveling at the words on my skin and the exotic language piercing my heart. I underlined most of the book, but one of my favorite lines is on page 86: "After a night out in the lost half city, you end up with dust of dead robots in your hair, or someone's dreams, or their nightmares."

This is the story of Charles Yu who lives in Minor Universe 31, a vast story-space on the outskirts of fiction. And yes, paradox fluctuates like the stock market, as the back cover states. I laughed out loud on page 13 at the reference to 'Linus Skywalker' son of Luke who has father issues: "You have no idea what it's like, man. To grow up with the freaking savior of the universe as your dad." The author's sharp wit, sarcasm and sense of humor are worth the price of the book.

Charles Yu is a time travel technician. The main issue with time travel is that everyone wants to do the one thing they can't and shouldn't do: change the past. Therein lies Mr. Yu's job security. But the larger story is his relationship with and search for his father, who invented time travel, then disappeared. The father/son relationship is the beating heart of the beautiful story.

Wildly Kafkaesque one moment, then comic sci-fi the next, "How to Live Safely in a Science Fiction Universe" is peppered with witty tongue-in-cheek sarcasm from TAMMY, an operating system with low self-esteem, and hilarious one-liners from lonely sexbots. What is real and what is not is for you to figure out.

Mr. Yu is a startling new voice in this undefineable genre. When I finished the book, I realized it was a prayer to language and the power and glory of living in the present moment and not letting your one precious life pass you by. I'll be reading this book over and over. It's that good."


"I think we ought to read only the kind of books that wound and stab us. If the book we are reading doesn't wake us up with a blow on the head, what are we reading it for? ...we need the books that affect us like a disaster, that grieve us deeply, like the death of someone we loved more than ourselves, like being banished into forests far from everyone, like a suicide. A book must be the axe for the frozen sea inside us." ~Kafka

"These are not books, lumps of lifeless paper, but minds alive on the shelves. From each of them goes out its own voice... and just as the touch of a button on our set will fill the room with music, so by taking down one of these volumes and opening it, one can call into range the voice of a man far distant in time and space, and hear him speaking to us, mind to mind, heart to heart." ~Gilbert Highet

"Books can be dangerous. The best ones should be labeled "This could change your life." ~Helen Exley


Thursday, August 26, 2010

Who Has Seen the Wind?

One of my Willows. She loves to feel the wind in her hair.

By Christine Rossetti

Who has seen the wind?
Neither I nor you:

But when the leaves hang trembling
The wind is passing thro'.

Who has seen the wind?
Neither you nor I:

But when the trees bow down their heads
The wind is passing by.

Poems don't have to be long to be mind-blowing.  I memorized this poem in Jr. High and have said it in my head & heart thousands of times on windy days.  Like today.  It's not a breezy day, it's a blustery day, as Pooh would say.  The wind that you can hear singing & gossiping in the trees.  I love it.
Ray and I used to go camping all the time when the kids were still home. Once we went to this primitive area, just he and I. We decided to give each other Native American names the last day. I became "She Who Hears the Wind." Ray became "He Who Drops Weenie in Fire".  We still laugh about that.
We've had a few rare low-humidity days here in the Deep South with lows in the 60's at night and it's like waking in a fairy tale land after the oppressive heat & humidity we've had all summer.  (And O, O, O that August full mOOn the past few nights, how she has hypnotized me!)  My Moonflowers were out to worship her, perfuming the balmy night air.  I wish I could package their fragrance.  It's like no other scent on earth.  It's why I plant them year after year.  They're beautiful, but the scent is otherworldly.  
On that note, I'm going back outside before the wind dies down. 
Love & Blessings,
Silky, pristeen August Moonflower.
One of my Alliums

"Sunshine is delicious, rain is refreshing, wind braces us up, snow is exhilarating; there is really no such thing as bad weather, only different kinds of good weather." ~John Ruskin

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"There is a muscular energy in sunlight corresponding to the spiritual energy of wind." ~Annie Dillard

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"To be interested in the changing seasons is a happier state of mind than to be hopelessly in love with spring." ~George Santayana

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Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Three of My Favorite Poems

My much-loved, dog-earred poetry anthology.  The following poems are from this book.

"Poetry has to do with the non-rational parts of man.  For a poet, a human being is a mystery....this is a religious feeling."  ~Czeslaw Milosz

The Journey
By Mary Oliver

One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice--
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
"Mend my life!"
each voice cried.
But you didn't stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations,
though their melancholy
was terrible.
It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do--
determined to save
the only life you could save.


By Archibald MacLeish

A poem should be palpable and mute
As a globed fruit

As old medallions to the thumb

Silent as the sleeve-worn stone
Of casement ledges where the moss has grown -

A poem should be wordless
As the flight of birds

A poem should be motionless in time
As the moon climbs

Leaving, as the moon releases
Twig by twig the night-entangled trees,

Leaving, as the moon behind the winter leaves,
Memory by memory the mind -

A poem should be motionless in time
As the moon climbs

A poem should be equal to:
Not true

For all the history of grief
An empty doorway and a maple leaf

For love
The leaning grasses and two lights above the sea -

A poem should not mean
But be


Late Fragment
By Raymond Carver

And did you get what
you wanted from this life, even so?
I did.
And what did you want?
To call myself beloved, to feel myself
beloved on the earth.


Monday, August 16, 2010

Rain by Don Paterson

Buy Poetry!  Support Poets!!

by Don Paterson
from:  "Rain"

I love all films that start with rain:
rain, braiding a windowpane
or darkening a hung-out dress
or streaming down her upturned face;

one big thundering downpour
right through the empty script and score
before the act, before the blame,
before the lens pulls through the frame

to where the woman sits alone
beside a silent telephone
or the dress lies ruined on the grass
or the girl walks off the overpass,

and all things flow out from that source
along their fatal watercourse.
However bad or overlong
such a film can do no wrong,

so when his native twang shows through
or when the boom dips into view
or when her speech starts to betray
its adaptation from the play,

I think to when we opened cold
on a starlit gutter, running gold
with the neon drugstore sign
and I'd read into its blazing line:

forget the ink, the milk, the blood—
all was washed clean with the flood
we rose up from the falling waters
the fallen rain's own sons and daughters

and none of this, none of this matters.


"Books let us into their souls and lay open to us the secrets of our own." ~William Hazlitt


"Books are the bees which carry the quickening pollen from one to another mind." ~James Russell Lowell


"Good friends, good books and a sleepy conscience: this is the ideal life." ~Mark Twain


Friday, August 13, 2010

Cherry Tomatoes by Anne Higgins and the Perseid Meteor Shower

My little fence garden in June.  My cherry tomatoes were in that bucket on the corner.  The garden is fried now and is only stems and wilted plants.  I planted early and beat the grasshopper plague that hit, thank goodness.  The little bastards ate my Mint and even my Comfrey.  I don't use poison in my yard so I tried my cayenne pepper, Dawn, tobacco mixture and they thought it was seasoning to spice things us.  They even got to my blueberries.  But we got some veggies and berries put up before the heat and plague hit.  I'd never be a good Buddhist because I smushed as many of those grasshoppers as I could.  Tee-Hee.  More came.  I'm sure there's a lesson there somewhere. 

If you're a star person, tonight is the Perseid meteor shower.  For over 2000 years, it's appeared annually around mid-August.  A good thing about August---no a great thing!  We are of the stars.  And of course, after no clouds all summer, it's raining today and was cloudy last night, too.  Maybe it'll clear up and we can see some fireworks in the heavens. 

Happy Friday!

Love & Blessings,


Cherry Tomatoes
by Anne Higgins

Suddenly it is August again, so hot,
breathless heat.
I sit on the ground
in the garden of Carmel,
picking ripe cherry tomatoes
and eating them.
They are so ripe that the skin is split,
so warm and sweet
from the attentions of the sun,
the juice bursts in my mouth,
an ecstatic taste,
and I feel that I am in the mouth of summer,
sloshing in the saliva of August.
Hummingbirds halo me there,
in the great green silence,
and my own bursting heart
splits me with life.

from: "At the Year's Elbow"

More information about the Perseid Meteor Shower from:
The Perseid meteor shower is an annual meteor shower that is extremely regular in its timing and can potentially be visible for weeks in the late summer sky, depending on weather and location.
The Perseid meteor shower is named after the constellation Perseus, which is located in roughly the same point of the night sky where the Perseid meteor shower appears to originate from. This is a useful naming convention, but not very accurate!

The source of the Perseid meteor shower is actually debris from the comet Swift-Tuttle. Every year, the earth passes through the debris cloud left by the comet when the earth's atmosphere is bombarded by what is popularly known as "falling stars."

When and where to look for Perseids:

Because of the way the earth hits this debris cloud, the Perseid meteor shower is much more visible in the Northern hemisphere.

People in Canada, for instance, can see the meteor shower by mid-July, but generally there isn't much activity at such an early date. Throughout Europe, the US and the rest of North America, meteor shower activity usually peaks sometime around August 12th, when it is not unusual to see at least 60 meteors per hour streaking across the Northeast sky.

The meteors are certainly bright, but they are actually only tiny objects, usually no more than a grain of sand. They travel at speeds of 71 kilometers per second, however, which helps these small particles put on such a brilliant show year after year.

Monday, August 2, 2010

IHop Ain't Got Nothing On Me! Happy 300th Post to Me!!

Sunday brunch:  french toast with apples and whipped cream. Bacon on the side. 

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I seldom ever cook in the summer.  It's too hot and, hell, we're the laziest state in the USA according to some screwed up new poll, so might as well live up to the hype, right?  Poor Louisiana.  We catch hell all the time.  Watching the boob tube, you'd think we all lived in shacks in the swamps with gators (and vampires, but I do so love True Blood!) in our backyards.  Sunday Ray wanted to go to IHop, a place we've only visited once in our life.  I told him I could beat IHop any old day and so I did.  He was amazed.  Only problem was I could've eaten twice this much it was so yummy.  My secret ingredients are cinnamon and cardamom.  I told Ray not to expect this every Sunday.  He usually goes to Micky D's and gets us breakfast on Sunday and buys me the Sunday paper so I can read the sales ads and cut coupons.  Then the cats love to play on the remnants I toss on the floor.  They slip and slide and fight.  Cat tv!!  LOL!

We went to see Inception last week.  I did not like it at all.  Too anticlimactic and the plot went exactly nowhere.  It had such great potential, too.  The special effects were good, but I'm a plot kinda girl.  I love a good story.  The storyline in this movie was as weak as tea made with a used tea bag.   I mean, come on, what they went through all that trouble for...dreams within dreams ad find what they found in the safe was, well, just hokey.  I know most people are nuts over the movie, but it didn't do anything for me.

I heard this poem today on NRP and I just had to share it.  I plan to buy the book, too.  I never knew Tennessee was the barbeque capitol of the south until we visited our daughter in Chattanooga.  There were barbeque joints on almost every corner.  We did eat some and it was awesome.  It was 103 degrees here yesterday and we're expecting more of the same today.  So I'll be lazying around in my cool house praying that August will not get too much hotter.  Hopefully, Fall might stop by for a visit in September!!  Have a wonderful week!!

Half-Rack at the Rendezvouz

by William Notter

She had a truck, red hair,
and freckled knees and took me all the way
to Memphis after work for barbecue.
We moaned and grunted over plates of ribs
and sweet iced tea, even in a room of strangers,
gnawing the hickory char, the slow
smoked meat peeling off the bones,
and finally the bones. We slurped
grease and dry-rub spice from our fingers,
then finished with blackberry cobbler
that stained her lips and tongue.

All the trees were throwing fireworks
of blossom, the air was thick
with pollen and the brand-new smell of leaves.
We drove back roads in the watermelon dusk,
then tangled around each other, delirious
as honeybees working wisteria.
I could blame it all on cinnamon hair,
or the sap rising, the overflow of spring,
but it was those ribs that started everything.

"Half-Rack at the Rendezvouz" by William Notter, from Holding Everything Down