Saturday, March 29, 2014

My Irrelevant Opinion on Teen Dystopias

     I read books indiscriminately.  I am just as happy reading Beowulf, a crusty old Scandinavian epic poem, as I am reading The Fault in Our Stars by John Green.  So I'm not a snob who only reads first-edition classics bound in leather or anything like that.  But I do have one requirement when it comes to the books I read and recommend, and that is that they be good.  And I do see a problem emerging in one of YA's most popular new genres, the teen dystopian novel, and that is that many of these books are not good.
     The dystopia craze started, I believe, with the success of The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins (a book that I very much adore).  It's hard to make it as a writer, so when people saw how well her parable of futuristic teen angst and bloodshed did, they understandably thought Aha!  Here is the formula for success!!  And ten seconds later, the front display tables of every Barnes and Nobles' across the country were weighted down with hardcovers featuring alluring young rebels simultaneously coming of age and overthrowing the government.  But books are not meant to be formulaic!  Believe me, I've tried to like some of these books, but they are not original, and so they are lifeless.  They recycle the same type of oppressive government, the same old heroine in the spirit of a watered-down Katniss Everdeen, and the same tired love triangle.  The saddest part of all this, however, is that people love these terrible books. And so I have taken on the solemn task of educating my peers!

Some highly recommendable dystopias,
along with my toes-again
     I'm not going to list the titles of any poor copycats here because I don't want to hurt anyone's feelings. But I have no qualms about listing some really good dystopian stories: 1984 by George Orwell, Maze Runner by James Dashner, The Giver by Lois Lowry, The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness, and Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card.  These books are so great because they give us unique glimpses into the nightmare we may be headed for.  As long as there are new generations being born, and with each generation, new problems, there will always be new warnings to share.  In this brave new world, there will always be brave new material to write about - so why do what's been done already?

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Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Snazzy Extra Uses for Books

     I've been a ferocious reader for over ten years now (exactly eleven in two months!!), and in my time as such I have learned a great deal about books besides the fact that they transport you to mystical places and are NOT MEANT TO BE READ ON TECHNOLOGICAL DEVICES.  No, there is much more to books than that, my friends.  For example, they have many excellent uses outside that may be less obvious to a  person who does not tote a book about with her wherever she goes.  Here are a few examples.
All these lovely books have lots of potential uses,
so don't just let them sit around gathering dust!
1.  They can be weaponized.   There is nothing unethical about this.  I am a small and innocuous/innocent-looking fifteen-year-old girl.  I am not a master of martial arts or kickboxing or even old-fashioned girl street-fighting.  I need to be able to defend myself, dammit!!!  So whenever someone gets too close, I whip out the book that they probably just interrupted me with and whack them repeatedly on the head with it. REPEATEDLY.  This practice is super-effective.

2. They can be an excuse.  
"Oh heyyyyyyyyyyyy therrrrrrrrrrrre, how weird is it seeing youuuuuuuuuu on the subway!!!!!!"
"Oh, hi."
"What are you reeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeading?!"
"You know, it's just this book for school that I really have to finish by tomorrow.  Sorry!"
Smile apologetically, snap your head down and don't look up again until one of you hops off the train.

3.  They can be umbrellas.  If you're having a remarkable and rare good hair day, and it starts to drizzle, and the book you have on hand at that moment happens to be a sturdy hardcover with a laminated dustjacket, then I believe it is appropriate to flip that book open and hold it over your head, thus preventing the deflation of your hair and causing minimal damage to your book.

4. They can be furniture.  In Inkheart by Cornelia Funke, Meg and her dad seem to have no bookshelves, just stacks of books all over the house.  If I was them, I would put those stacks to use as side tables!  Stools!  Footrests!  Shelving units!  Who needs stacks of $$ when you have stacks of knowledge??  And most of all, who needs Ikea when you have books???

5.  They can make friends for you.  ALLLLLLL of my friends have read The Hunger Games.  Or almost all of them.  So there must be some truth to this.


Monday, March 10, 2014

How to Fashion Yourself a Literary Wardrobe

   HAHA can you plz forgive me for the pun I could not help myself.
   So I love books, but I also love off-kilter clothing, and when the clothes are book inspired then I am a very happy person indeed.  These are my suggestions.  
1. A ring with the seven dwarves on it.  The movie would not have been complete without a Grouchy to counteract Snow White's Sweet'n Low sweetness.    
SNOW WHITE RING - product images  of
Find it at: Rings and Tings

2. A Watership Down sweater.  And guess what??!!  They've got shirts and sweatshirts for The Metamorphosis, The Great Gatsby, A Wrinkle in Time, Fahrenheit 451, Alice in Wonderland, and pretty much all my favorite old books.  Also they sell bags and jewelry and other stuff of similar themes.

Look at this lovely thing!  The trees make the shape of a rabbit!!!
Watership Down book cover unisex fleece |

3.  This is literally called the Storybook Illustrator Dress - all the details are in SKETCHY (ha more puns) trompe l'oiel.  If my purse strings were looser I would have tons of Modcloth's printed dresses and eccentric shoes, and everyone would clock me as a tea-microwaving cat-coddling secluded-writer type the moment they saw me. It would certainly save precious time.  
Storybook Illustrator Dress by Dear Creatures - Mint, Black, Novelty Print, Casual, Sheath / Shift, Sleeveless, Better, Scoop, Cotton, Woven, Mid-length, Pockets, Work, Pastel
Find it at: Modcloth

4. A Poe-printed scarf.  This Etsy shop prints books and poems - Pride and Prejudice, Romeo and Juliet, The Picture of Dorian Grey - good stuff) onto infinity scarves.  If you ever get stuck on the subway with nothing to read, as I occasionally do, you can always fall back on reading your scarf.  Perplexed fellow subway users be damned!! 
Pride and Prejudice Book Scarf

5. I don't care if you think I'm nuts - glasses are for everyone!!!  Just pop the damn lenses out and off you go.  Firmoo is fabulous because they sell non-prescription glasses for $13 - and up, in the case of the lovely pair pictured below.
Find it at: Firmoo

****Disclaimer:  Not only do I not own the rights to any of these sites or pictures etcetera, but I also have never bought anything from any of these stores!!  I only dream of doing so...

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Junkie Metaphors and Books About Our Inner Crazy

    So, recently I was doing a spot of (mandatory) community service for my gym teacher when I experienced a rare instance of karmic payoff.
     Me and a bunch of other temporary bond-slaves were unloading this huge file cabinet onto the gym floor, sorting everything from Dance Revolution DVDs to pamphlets on Your First Visit to the Ob-Gyn! into neat piles, when I uncovered quite by chance a crumbling copy of Naked Lunch by William S. Burroughs.  Elated, I carried it around for the remainder of the period until my teacher took pity on me and offered to let me borrow it.
It's falling apart before my very eyes I swear...
     I fell in love with this book the moment I heard its title quite a while ago - Naked Lunch?  What the hell kind of weird awesome twisted name is that?  I am only now realizing how twisted it really is.  The book is a compilation of notes that Burroughs took while under the sick influence of heroin.  It is rife with disgusting sex scenes and metaphors for the consumption of drugs in which characters enthusiastically eat their own poop.  Nice.  But addiction is a disgusting topic, and I'm impressed that Burroughs had the guts to describe his experience of hell so honestly.  It's written in an awesome psychedelic death-pit style that is unlike anything I've ever read before, and I LOVE it!  But it's gotten me thinking about the other great authors out there that dare to squish about in the dirty freaky depths of human insanity, and how much their books deserve to be recognized.  Here are a just a few (writers are a nutty sadistic bunch anyway)...
My books + my toes
1. Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes- It's not a book about insanity, exactly.  It's about a developmental disability called Down Syndrome and what would happen if there was a cure for it.  But it's one of the most interesting an desperately sad books I've ever read, so I really HAD to tell y'all about it, you know? 

2. One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest by Ken Kesey- A classic book about insanity, with a very unorthodox take on the matter.  The inmates of the asylum that is this book's setting live in oppression and self-loathing under the tyrannical reign of Nurse Ratched until a criminal pretending to be mentally unstable in order to evade prison gets sent to the ward and teaches the other lunatics to rebel against her authority.  Kesey seems to question whether so-called "mental disorders" are really just labels used to control eccentrics who refuse to conform.  I read somewhere that he actually worked at a mental hospital himself for a while, which does to my mind give him some authority on the subject.  However, I don't really need to add 'murder by roaming sociopath or schizophrenic' to my list of worries...

3. Going Bovine by Libba Bray- The whole riotous, fast-paced, hysterical, and probing story was actually a mad cow disease-induced hallucination!  Or was it?

4. The Stand by Stephen King- After humanity is besieged and mostly eliminated by an incurable new disease, so many survivors lose their minds that it would be monotonous to list them all. In addition, this new world is split into two sides, one brought together by the hand of God and the other by the influence of the Devil. This encampment of evil is populated entirely by the brutally insane - prominent figures include the Kid, a tiny doll-like man with a penchant for psychological and sexual torture, and the Trash-Can Man, a childish pyromaniac who can detect explosive and nuclear weapons with the ease of a tracking dog (a talent that ultimately and gruesomely destroys him).  Never have I envied a person's power to repulse more than I envy King's.

5. The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky- Everybody loves it!  Everybody's read it!  (Or else you should be reading it!)  But it's not until the very end of this book that the reader realizes that Charlie's social awkwardness goes much much deeper than anyone ever guessed.