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The Interestings Book Review

interestingsThe Interestings by Meg Wolitzer is a book about life and its endless possibilities.

When the novel begins, a group of six childhood friends are on equal footing; all of them have an artistic talent and the environment to nurture that talent. As we follow the group into adulthood we see those endless possibilities dwindle into a single reality. We see varying degrees of love, money, talent, ambition, and satisfaction and the roles they play in the lives of these six intertwined friends.

Comparing the outcomes of these six fictional lives is a small step away from comparing our own lives to our own peers. This novel, however, can show us that finding the perfect balance to happiness is not always as straightforward as we would like it to be.

Theme

The quote below summarizes this theme of the novel. The funnel however, does not stop after childhood, the funnel continues to narrow and squeeze with every choice we make.

“When you have a child,” [Ash had] recently said to Jules, it’s like right away there’s this grandiose fantasy about who he’ll become. And then time goes on and a fuel appears. And the child gets pushed through t that funnel, and shaped by it, and narrowed a little bit. So now you know he’s not going to be an athlete. and now you know he’s not going to be a painter. Now you know he’s not going to be a linguist. All these difference possibilities fall away.”

Book Cover

The Interestings is in the running for the best book cover. Although not particularly representative of the story, the attention it draws is undeniable.

4 Stars

If you are looking for pure entertainment, this book is not for you. However… if you let this novel plant seeds in your mind, and if you let your wandering thoughts water those seeds, you may find yourself emerged in something much larger and much more rewarding than a novel. 

One more good quote…

“Part of the beauty of love was that you didn’t need to explain it to anyone else. You could refuse to explain. With love, apparently you didn’t necessarily feel the need to explain anything at all.”

A quote about love

“Part of the beauty of love was that you didn’t need to explain it to anyone else. You could refuse to explain. With love, apparently you didn’t necessarily feel the need to explain anything at all.”

The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer

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Life of Pi Book Review

2002 Yann Martel Life of PiI read Life of Pi believing it was a real story. And it was. It was so real.

Okay, okay, so a 15-year-old Indian boy didn’t actually survive on a lifeboat in the middle of the Pacific for 227 days with a full-grown tiger but Yann Martel certainly makes it feel that way. Journey. Expedition. Adventure. None of these words quite capture the magic felt while cruising the Pacific’s current with Pi Patel, a zoo-keeper’s son who practices not one, not two, but three religions.

Pi Patel’s father decides to sell off the the remains of his zoo and move his family to Canada. As the Patel’s are crossing the Pacific with dozens of animals being sold to America zoos, their ship unexplainably sinks. Pi safetly gets to a lifeboat, only to find he shares it with a zebra, a hyena, an orangutan, and a Bengal tiger. Every one of the next 227 days will threaten Pi’s life.

Although the book is often referred to as “fantasy adventure” or “magic realism”, Life of Pi fights those bindings of genre. This is a story of love, faith, companionship, humanity, and nature. Its a story about believing what you cannot see, believing exactly that which is hard to believe. Readers firmly planted in reality may have a hard time enjoying this novel. But to those who enjoy opening their mind to fiction will cherish it, as I certainly do.

***Check out my previous post for some great Life of Pi Quotes!

Life of Pi was included on Arts.Mic’s list of 11 Twenty-First Century Books Our Kids Will Be Taught in School.

Structure

Martel structures the novel to encourage the story’s reality. It begins by the author, Martel, having a chance encounter with an old man who tells him about a story that will “make him believe in God.” After the old man tells the narrator about Pi’s story, he seeks him out and “interviews” Pi as an adult in order to write his story.

The middle and majority of the book is written in Pi’s first person perspective as he struggles to survive with a tiger on a lifeboat in the vast Pacific.

SPOILER AHEAD: The end of the novel also ends with an interview; Pi being interviewed by two Japanese men investigating the sinking of the ship. This creates the full circle plot as well as

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Theme

I don’t like to talk about theme in my book reviews because I think theme too often shrinks the imagination of the reader. To put a story in a neat, themed box (Example: The Harry Potter series is about how love conquers evil.) is too simple. Every novel has layers of meaning and every reader should be able to interpret it how they see fit.

So, without cramming Life of Pi‘s theme into a single word or phrase, it is about… Humanity. Peace. Storytelling. Faith. And how we interprets these things. What we choose to believe and how we push away the improbable as impossible. Every reader should have fun deciphering these themes for themselves. You may not discover the same things I did in this book, but I doubt you will come away empty handed.

The author of Life of Pi, Yann Martel, said the following was part of his inspiration for the story:

“The idea that life is an interpretation, that between us and reality lies our imagination, which shapes our vision of reality…” – Yann Martel in a Q&A on ABCnews.com

5 Stars!

Life of Pi will likely make my list of favorite books read in 2015. The inspiration and humanity this novel exposes feels as real to me as the keyboard I’m typing on.

Life of Pi Quotes

This entire novel is a good quote but here are a few I picked out that specifically pleased me. Enjoy! 

2002 Yann Martel Life of Pi“I wish I could convey the perfection of a seal slipping into water or a spider monkey swinging from point to point or a lion merely turning its head. But language founders in such seas. Better to picture it in your head if you want to feel it.”

“When you’ve suffered a great deal in life, each additional pain is both unbearable and trifling.”

“…Hindus, in their capacity for love, are indeed hairless Christians, just as Muslims, in the way they see God in everything, are bearded Hindus, and Christians, in their devotion to God, are hat-wearing Muslims.”

“Ten thousand trumpets and twenty thousand drums could not have made as much noise as that bolt of lightning; it was positively deafening.”

“I cannot think of a better way to spread the faith [than leaving sacred writings like the Bible where weary travelers might rest their heads]. No thundering from a pulpit, no condemnation from bad churches, no peer pressure, just a book of scripture quietly waiting to say hello, as gentle and powerful as a little girl’s kiss on your cheek.”

“It was as unbelievable as the moon catching fire.”

“At moments of wonder, it is easy to avoid small thinking, to entertain thoughts that span the universe, that capture both thunder and tinkle, thick and thin, the near and the far.”

arunrajagopal.com

Beautiful photo taken from arunrajagopal.com.

“There were many seas. The sea roared like a tiger. The sea whispered in your ear like a friend telling you secrets. The sea clinked like small change in a pocket. The sea thundered like avalanches. The sea hissed like sandpaper working on wood. The sea sounded like someone vomiting. The sea was dead silent.” 

“Life on a lifeboat isn’t much of a life. It is like an end game in chess, a game with few pieces. The elements couldn’t be more simple, nor the stakes higher.”

“If we, citizens, do not support our artists, then we sacrifice our imagination on the altar of crude reality and we end up believing in nothing and having worthless dreams.” -from the Author’s Note

Driftless Book Review

driftlessEven to the most die-hard sic-fi/fantasy/mystery/genre-loving readers and writers, its necessary to occasionally read a novel that is simply real. Real characters, in a real setting, dealing with real life issues. If you can convey the truth of human nature with crisp writing and clear intuition, the plot doesn’t matter, it will be a great story! These real stories (especially if they’re fictional) are the ones that nurture the soul in a way no genre fiction can.

Driftless by David Rhodes nurtured my soul.

Plot

Driftless dives into the lives of several characters, their stories interweaving like any small-town neighbors’ would. Rhodes builds each story with quick glimpses, each chapter jumping into the perspective of another character. We view the life of a lonely cripple who bets it all in hopes of finding new life; a mourning farmer who finds new love; a female priest that experiences the truth of the world; and my favorite story, a young family who finds themselves in the middle of a giant milk corporation scandal. Weaved into these stories are dog fights, car chases, deadly snow storms, and musical adventures. Although the story is largely philosophical and descriptive, these short bursts of adrenaline offer a great balance. 3718833796_dda2795a8a

Writing

Nothing if not beautiful, the writing is descriptive and meditative. Lengthy at times but also heartfelt and comforting. Here are a few glimpses into that beauty…

Like primeval cathedral bells his mother’s voice called…

The color of the [cougar] impressed him…this kind of bright black. It drew all other colors to it, like water to a drain. The animal possessed a darkness even beyond black, with two glowing eyes as yellow as stars.

Gail, in her red coat, and surrounded by a sea of flowers, looked like a cardinal in a spring apple tree.

For more, check out my previous blog, The Outstanding Similes and Metaphors of David Rhodes.

Many of the short chapters in Driftless hold their own miniature but full stories. A few sections could be read out of context and still satisfy a reader. Its a beautiful thing that takes a talented writer. These stories help the reader feel fulfilled even when the long, slow plot seems exhausting at times.

4.5 Stars

I strongly considered 5 stars but the slow pace of the novel made me drop. If I was the editor I wouldn’t cut a single chapter, but still, the slow pace was a bit of drawback.

The Outstanding Similes and Metaphors of David Rhodes

Like all great metaphors, all of the following quotes are amplified by the context they are found in. That is why I encourage you to read Driftless by David Rhodes, a novel that rings true with every word.

driftless

The darkness of the room surrounded him like an ocean. 

Like primeval cathedral bells his mother’s voice called…

Your must guard your words like a dragon guarding her cave.

The sun reflected from the clouds in avenues of colored ideas.

He saw his beliefs, things he could not know for certain but still held true, as clearly as pictures drawn on paper.

The color of the [cougar] impressed him…this kind of bright black. It drew all other colors to it, like water to a drain. The animal possessed a darkness even beyond black, with two glowing eyes as yellow as stars.

As the morning rinsed stars out of the night sky…

Gail, in her red coat, and surrounded by a sea of flowers, looked like a cardinal in a spring apple tree. 

Black cougar

Writing Quotes from AWP

So many quotes flooded through the rooms and hallways of AWP last weekend in Minneapolis and I wanted to share a few here. Enjoy!

Also, see my previous post, What to Read from AWP Writers.

The Writing Process 

“Inspiration comes in the middle of hard work.”

“What I write will always fall short of the ideal in my head. To write anyway, knowing that, is my greatest struggle.” 

“We are always translating ourselves–from thoughts to words.” -Pablo Medina

“Sometimes you are writing to learn how to write.”

“Finding a good ending is writing your way out of the story.” -Tom Hazuka

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Incorporating research/science into writing

“You’re going to make mistakes but there is a point where you get to say this is fiction, this world only exists between these two covers.” 

“Your reader will be convinced more quickly than you think. They want to believe you know what you’re talking about. A few specific details generally do more than a chapter of scientific detail.”

“What is true is not always factual.”

“Its more important to write the truth than to write the facts.” 

“By writing fiction, I hope to reach a wider audience than if I wrote nonfiction.”

“If I do too much research, it will kill the story.”

“Fake it as much as you can because you’re going to cut most of it anyway.”

“You’re trying to get to a deeper truth, a metaphorical truth.” 

From Poets

“Poems can encircle mystery in a way prose can not.” -Ted Kooser

This is something everyone in this audience has seen.” -Ted Kooser talking about his poet “Splitting an Order”

“What is true now, may not be true in the future. I’d be happy to tell you the truth if I knew what the truth was.” -Connie Wanek

Ted Kooser at AWP 2015

Ted Kooser at AWP 2015

Flash Fiction

“We always hear readers wanting more. They want to know more, more, more, so telling a story with less is courageous.” -Larry Smith, founder of Smith Magazine, known for its 6-word stories

“The 100-word story gives you a great feeling of completion.” -Grant Faulkner

“Flash fiction is about the spaces around the story.” -Grant Faulkner

“Trust the reader to fill in the backstory and the ending.”

Publishing quotes from editors of literary journals

“I really don’t know what I’m looking for until I see it.”

“I like to publish a mix of established and emerging writers.”

“Finding the right fiction is like hitting a moving target.”

“I can like nearly anything.”

Other

“Silence perpetuates mystery in fiction.” (Think Hills like white elephants)

“An MFA is a prerequisite to teach, but it is not a guarantee.”

“Take your manuscripts as far as you possibly can and have reasons to back up your craft choices before you send it to publishers/agents.”

 

**I tried to give credit to the mouths of these quotes as often as I could but please forgive me for the many I had to leave blank. I also tried to get the exact wording, but I certainly fell short.

creativity

The City by Dean Koontz

I am currently reading Dean Koontz’s latest novel, The City, and am absolutely loving it. I do not want it to end. The writing, the story, the characters, the magically dangerous mood, I love it all. If you’re looking for a great read, pick up The City.

Being able to put life’s undeniable, yet simple truths into a novel in a way that does not sound like pretentious rambling is one of my ultimate goals as a writer. Here are a few quotes from The City that I feel do just that.

Photo taken from DeanKoontz.com

Photo taken from DeanKoontz.com

“After you have suffered great losses and known much pain, it is not cowardice to wish to live henceforth with minimum of suffering. And one form of heroism, about which few if any films will be made, is having the courage to live without bitterness when bitterness is justified, having the strength to persevere even when perseverance seems unlikely to be rewarded, having the resolution to find profound meaning in life when it seems the most meaningless.” pg. 134

“When you keep a secret from those closest to you, even with the best of motives, there is danger that you will create a smaller life within you main life. The first secret will spin off other secrets that also must be kept, complicated webs of evasion that grow into elaborate architectures of repressed truths and subterfuge, until you discover that you must live two narratives at once. Because deception requires both bold lies of omission, it stains the soul, muddies the conscience, blurs the vision, and puts you at risk of headlong descent into greater darkness.” pg. 141

“After all these years, I occasionally wonder how my life would have been different if in that fateful moment I had followed my first impulse and had run. But I suppose that what we call intuition is just one of the may ways that the still small voice in our souls speaks to us, if we will listen, and that inner companion wants only what is best for us. If I had run, no doubt what might have happened to me would have been far worse than what did happen,  my losses even greater than they had been, my story darker than the one I’ve lived. And yet I wonder.” pg. 175

Quotes About Reading from Writers

Searching for a semi-forgotten quote is one of the most tedious tasks I have encountered. Thankfully I’m not easily frustrated today. But while I was searching for that semi-forgotten reading quote, I stumbled upon many new, powerful quotes that I am happy to share with you, so I suppose something even more inspiring came out of that lingering quote (that I still haven’t been able to find so please read my ** at the end and help me out if you can!). Most of these quotes came from 40 Inspiring Quotes About Reading from Writers and a few stranglers from other places. Enjoy! 

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“Reading is the sole means by which we slip, involuntarily, often helplessly, into another’s skin, another’s voice, another’s soul.” — Joyce Carol Oates

“You should never read just for “enjoyment.” Read to make yourself smarter! Less judgmental. More apt to understand your friends’ insane behavior, or better yet, your own. Pick “hard books.” Ones you have to concentrate on while reading. And for god’s sake, don’t let me ever hear you say, “I can’t read fiction. I only have time for the truth.” Fiction is the truth, fool! Ever hear of “literature”? That means fiction, too, stupid.” — John Waters

“Never trust anyone who has not brought a book with them.” — Lemony Snicket (aka Daniel Handler) I certainly don’t hold true to this quote but I find it intriguing because I really do carry my book (almost) everywhere I go and I feel that is a true rarity today. books

“Reading is everything. Reading makes me feel like I’ve accomplished something, learned something, become a better person. Reading makes me smarter. Reading gives me something to talk about later on. Reading is the unbelievably healthy way my attention deficit disorder medicates itself. Reading is escape, and the opposite of escape; it’s a way to make contact with reality after a day of making things up, and it’s a way of making contact with someone else’s imagination after a day that’s all too real. Reading is grist. Reading is bliss.” — Nora Ephron

“I cannot remember the books I’ve read any more than the meals I have eaten; even so, they have made me.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson  This is true for me and is one of the reasons I enjoy my blog so much. Even though I have only been writing book reviews since January, I already enjoy rifling through my archives and remembering what books I’ve already forgotten. 

“You think your pain and your heartbreak are unprecedented in the history of the world, but then you read. It was books that taught me that the things that tormented me most were the very things that connected me with all the people who were alive, or who had ever been alive.” — James Baldwin

“Many people, myself among them, feel better at the mere sight of a book.” ― Jane Smiley  As I am also one of these people, I always leave my book on top of my desk where I can easily look over at it and feel at home no matter where I may be.

“You don’t have to burn books to destroy a culture. Just get people to stop reading them.” ― Ray Bradbury

A good book has no ending. ― R.D. Cumming

 

**The quote I am searching for is along the lines of… “Some books are meant to be read, enjoyed and tossed aside without thinking too deeply about theme/writing ect.”   Please help me out if you have any ideas!! 

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