There There by Tommy Orange 

Aug 21, 2018 by

There There by Tommy Orange

There There by Tommy Orange is one of those profound books that only come along once in a long while.  This is a book that should be considered for a Pulitzer or Nobel Prize. It offers such dramatic insight into the human soul, such I’ve not read but in a few works ever in my life.

There There

There There by Tommy Orange is one of the most profound books I’ve ever read.

The story itself tracks several Native American characters as they eventually make their way through life to rendezvous at a pow wow in Oakland, California in modern times. They’re off the reservation, urban Indians, struggling with their past, struggling with their present and futures all rolled into one. And the stories are rich and real. Life is harsh and the book provides a vision of lives most would never even know exist. I certainly did not realize the struggles characterized in the book. The novel was an eye-opener. The beauty in it lies in that this isn’t a story only for the Native American soul. It is something that matters to the soul in all of us.

Tommy Orange has written a very great book.

Quotes from the Book There There by Tommy Orange

We stayed because the city sounds like a war, and you can’t leave a war once you’ve been, you can only keep it at bay–which is easier when you can see and hear it near you, the fast metal, that constant firing around you, cars up and down the streets and freeways like bullets. pg 9

…nothing is original, everything comes from something that came before, which was once nothing. Everything is new and doomed. pg 11

“We don’t have time, Nephew, time has us. It holds us in its mouth like an owl holds a field mouse. We shiver. We struggle. for release, and then it pecks out our eyes and intestines for sustenance and we die the death of field mice.” pg 36

…the place where she’d grown up in Oakland had changed so much, that so much development had happened there, that the there of her childhood, the there there, was gone there was no there there anymore.” pg 38-9

But for Native people in this country, all over the Americas, it’s been developed over, buried ancestral land, glass and concrete and wire and steel, unreturnable covered memory. There is no there there. pg 39

She told me the world was made of stories, nothing else, just stories, and stories about stories. pg 58

Even the old people in charge, they’re acting like kids. There’s no more scope, no vision, no depth. We want it now and we want it new. This world is a mean curveball thrown by an overly excited, steroid-fueled kid pitcher, who has no more cares about the integrity of the game than he does about the Costa Ricans who painstakingly stitch the balls together by hand. pg 82-3

Being bipolar is like having an axe to grind with an ax you need to split the wood to keep you warm in the a cold dark forest you only might eventually realize you’ll never make your way out of. pg 88

You can’t sell life is okay when it’s not. pg 98

When we see that the story is the way we live our lives, only then can we start to change, a day at a time. pg 112

Jacquie can’t remember a day going by when at some point she hadn’t wished she could burn her life down. pg 152

Secrets lie through omission just like shame lies through secrecy. pg 165

The poor dog was probably just trying to spread the weight of its own abuse. pg 170

To get injured and not recover is a sign of weakness. pg 214

Most addictions aren’t premeditated. You slept better. Drinking felt good. But mostly, if there was any real reason you could pinpoint, it was because of your skin. pg 217

Maybe we’ve all been speaking the broken tongue of angels and demons too long to know that that’s what we are, who we are, what we’re speaking. Maybe we don’t ever die but change, always in the State without hardly ever even knowing that we’re in it. pg 224

Places Featured in There There by Tommy Orange

Oakland, CA, USA
Oklahoma City, OK, USA
Phoenix, AZ, USA

read more

Related Posts

Tags

Share This

Celeste Ng’s Little Fires Everywhere

Aug 20, 2018 by

Celeste Ng’s Little Fires Everywhere

I recently read Celeste Ng’s best selling novel, Little Fires Everywhere, and enjoyed the book. It is a very well written novel and worthy of a read.

From the beginning, things are happening. There is no set up that takes pages to develop. We dive right in. The Richardson home in the suburbs of Ohio has been burnt to the ground and the kids in the family believe, rightly, that their sister Izzy has set little fires everywhere throughout the house to burn it to the ground. The rest of the book is an explanation of why their sister, who the other kids run down as being strange, weird, disturbed, maybe is the sanest one of the bunch.

Little Fires Everywhere

Celeste Ng’s Little Fires Everywhere.

There are some good passages I underlined while reading:

“Did you have to burn down the old to make way for the new?” pg 160

“Rules existed for a reason: if you followed them, you would succeed; if you didn’t, you might burn the world to the ground.”  pg 161

For the benefit of Penguin Press and additional editions, the word “the” was left out of the last paragraph on page 198. “Mia had boarded a Greyhound to Philly, then New York, with one suitcase and clothing and one of THE cameras.”

I also don’t understand why the word “laundromat” was capitalized on each use.

“Like after a prairie fire. I saw one, years ago, when we were in Nebraska. It seems like the end of the world. The earth is all scorched and black and everything green is gone. But after the burning the soil is richer, and new things can grow.” pg 295

Characters

This really is a good book. There are more than the usual number of characters to keep up with, but it did not get to be too much. Each of them were unique.

Mrs. Richardson becomes something of an antagonist.

Pearl a victim of the actions of adults in her world.

Moody, also gets caught up in all the drama of his family and could be something more, but in the end, fails.

Lexie proves to be as dishonest as her mother in a different way.

Trip has his own guilt and shame, too.

Then there are the McCulloughs and we see adult self-interests, which over-ride the interests of children throughout the book, are alive and well in this other family.

We have Pearl’s mother, Mia. Running from her own demons and past.

And then we have Bebe, another adult who acted in her own self-interests and who tried to correct her ways.

Conclusion

I liked reading this book. The writing is authentic and real. The story is not outlandish. This is something that could happen. Maybe it has. Celeste Ng has done a good job with this work. You would be wise to pick up this book and give it a read.

 

 

read more

Related Posts

Tags

Share This

The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn

Aug 16, 2018 by

The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn

I read The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn, a 427 page novel, in one day.

It was that good.

The woman in the window

The Woman in the Window is an EXCELLENT read.

I will say it again, with conviction this time.

Women who are mix alcohol with lots of pills–that should be a literary genre all unto itself. At least in the 2010s.

But in this case, it works. It REALLY works.  And A.J. Finn’s writing, not once in the whole book did I stop to question a grammatical or literary anything. The book is solidly written.

Before the end, I will confess I had figured out who had dunnit and how they were going to be taken out. But that’s okay. It was so late in the game, the reveals were there, hopefully a blind man could have seen them as well.

Books like these are not normally the kind I read, but this one, which has spent a long time on the New York Times Bestseller list, really drew me in and held me. There were definitely some surprises I did NOT see coming. And in all fairness to anyone who has not read the book, I won’t reveal or spoil them.

Sleeping After Reading This Book

I finished the book at about midnight and went to bed. Throughout the night the narrator kept talking to me as I slept. The night’s rest was definitely filled with a new voice. There were things this character and I had in common–IKEA desks and an hourglass that I use when I write. Many times I also write in front of my window. So I connected.

Conclusions

The genre thing about the alcohol and the pills though. It is truly depressing to think that there must be so many woman out there who can relate to this kind of thing that so many books are written about women like this. Just in the past few months I’ve read a couple books that fall into this category. The Ottessa Moshfegh characters definitely.

Regardless, I highly recommend this book. It will hold you from the second you pick it up until you put it down. Though I must confess, the idea that an inciting incident must happen within the first 50 pages or the book doesn’t work, as an agent recently announced at a seminar, doesn’t hold for this book. There is considerable set up. But the thrust of the story doesn’t begin until about page 100. That’s not to say those first 100 pages are lacking. They definitely are intriguing.

 

 

read more

Related Posts

Tags

Share This

The Days of Abandonment by Elena Ferrante

Aug 15, 2018 by

The Days of Abandonment by Elena Ferrante

I recently read The Days of Abandonment by Elena Ferrante and enjoyed the power of this book. I don’t think I’ve read a book yet on my way to 101 works of fiction that is packed with as many powerful lines in so short a work as this one, and there are some great, powerful words in this book. I’ve included a list of the passages I underlined while reading the book for you to soak in.

The Days of Abandonment is an excellent read with incredibly rich language.

I wanted to write stories about women with resources, women of invincible words, not a manual for the abandoned wife with her lost love at the tope of her thoughts. … I didn’t like the impenetrable page, like a lowered blind.  I liked light, air between the slats, I wanted to write stories full of breezes, if filtered rays where dust motes danced. And then I loved the writers who made you look through every line, to gaze downward and feel the vertigo of the depths, the blackness of inferno.  pg 21

The contradictions in the life of a couple are many–I admitted–and I was working on ours in hopes of untangling and resolving them.  pg 31

In this long hours I was the sentinel of grief, keeping watch along with a crowd of dead words. pg 32

…taught as wire digging into the flesh pg 35

Women without love lose the light in their eyes, women without love die while they are still alive. pg 44

Sometimes she gave me the feeling that she didn’t like me, as if she recognized in me something of herself that she hated, a secret evil of her own. pg 52

…You don’t speak to a father who sneaks into the house and leaves no trace of himself, not a hello, not a goodbye, not even a how are you. pg 58

Meanwhile I grabbed Mario, who was turning around with frightened eyes, his nose bleeding, and he looked at me full of terror and astonishment at once. Hold the commas, hold the periods. pg 70

A woman can easily kill on the street, in the middle of a crowd, she can do it more easily than a man. pg 72

A long passage of life together, and you think he’s the only man you can be happy with, you credit him with countless critical virtues, and instead he’s just a reed that emits sounds of falsehood, you don’t know who he really is, he doesn’t know himself. pg 74

We don’t know anything about people, even those with whom we share everything. pg 78

No, I thought, squeezing a rag and struggling to get up: starting at a certain point, the future is only a need to live in the past. pg 92

There was no distance between me and them, wheres the rule say that to tell a story you need first all of a measuring stick, a calendar, you have to calculate how much time has passed, how much space has been interposed between you and the facts, the emotions to be narrated. pg 98

Tricks of words, a swindle, maybe the promised land has no more words to embellish the facts. pg 98

The most innocuous people are capable of doing terrible things. pg 114

We fabricate objects in a semblance of our bodies, one side joined to the other. Or we design them thinking they’re joined as we are joined to the desired body. Creatures born from a banal fantasy. pg 131

Success depends on the capacity to manipulate the obvious with calculated precision. pg 131

What a mistake, above all, it had been to believe that I couldn’t live without him, when for a long time I had not been at all certain that I was alive with him. pg 140

How heavy a body that has been traversed by death is, life is light, there’s no need to let anyone make it heavy for us. pg 146

Not even the TV in one corner, transmitting the latest harsh news on the deeds of men…. pg 157

Translation

This book was written in Italian and translated into English. What I’ve already learned is that there is more packed into the Italian version that does not come across in the English translation. That’s hard to believe given the list of quotes from the book already included above. Elena Ferrante has a command with words and it is beautiful to read.

This is a passionate story. A husband leaves his wife and she is left to pick up the shattered pieces of her life. The book is worth a read. A couple readings, actually. The writing is among the best ever. Truly.

read more

Related Posts

Tags

Share This

Ottessa Moshfegh’s My Year of Rest and Relaxation

Aug 14, 2018 by

Ottessa Moshfegh’s My Year of Rest and Relaxation

I read Ottessa Moshfegh’s My Year of Rest and Relaxation in a 24-hour period though the story encompasses a year’s time. This is the second book of Moshfegh’s I’ve read–Eileen was the first.

My Year of Rest and Relaxation.

Ottessa Moshfegh’s My Year of Rest and Relaxation is a good read.

Recently I read in a comment somewhere that “Women who consume lots of alcohol and take lots of pills should be considered a new genre.” This book would certainly fit into that category. It certainly seems to be a more common theme these days. (I am presently reading The Woman In The Window. It belongs in this new supposed genre, too.)

Moshfegh certainly writes some out of the ordinary characters. I met her recently and I have to say, she’s one herself. The woman is keenly intelligent and it shows in her writing.

I don’t know that I necessarily care for her stories, Eileen was just dark and strange, and MYoRaR is just as strange. A a neurotic woman not wanting to deal with reality so she decides she’s going to drug herself and sleep a year until her problems go away. The unnamed narrator despises her friend, and really isn’t a nice person at all. But Ottessa’s writing is good; she makes me understand her characters and that is what good writing is all about.

Unlike some of the other books I’ve read of late, I didn’t hop out of them because Moshfegh did something mid-story to make me go, “Oh, come on!”

Ottessa Moshfegh is a good writer. Some say she is a brilliant writer. I just don’t care for all the doom and gloom in her writing. I know it exists in the world, but her pages are painted exclusively with it. There is a little ray of sunshine trying to poke out at the end of each of her books. Each character knows they’re caught in shitty lives and shitty worlds and they’re dealing with the mire the best they know how. I get that, but the gloom is melancholy at best. And I guess that’s why people enjoy reading her books. I’ve long held, and unfortunately been involved with some people who as I’ve said, “Can’t be happy unless they’re miserable.”

I need something a little more upbeat in my reading. I’ve endured hardships of my own and have gotten pretty down about things, but I don’t think I’ve ever let my circumstances get to me like these characters did in either of her two books. But that’s just me, and Ottessa’s been published. Twice, and I’m still trying to find an agent, so that shows what I know. Or does it?

 

read more

Related Posts

Tags

Share This

Writer’s Doubt 

Aug 9, 2018 by

Writer’s Doubt

There are days when my writer’s doubt makes me want to load up my typewriters, cameras, laptops, iPads, clothes, tent, sleeping bag, the axe, the dog, my notebooks, and typing paper and head far into the woods of Upper Michigan, far from the silence of waiting for the next ding from Mac Mail that might be another rejection from an agent, or might finally, just possibly be an email from an agent wanting more of what I’ve queried.

The seal of The Grammatic Artist.

To date, I’ve sent out 77 query letters. I’ve received 31 rejections and have two agents who have asked for more. One asked for three chapters more on May 3rd and I’ve heard nothing more. Another asked for a full on July 2. It’s now August 9, 2018.

In an effort to keep myself from going stir crazy, I have been revising Book 3, which will be Book 2 to query. Since most agents supposedly vacation in August, I’m spending the month revising, and I’m spending the month doing what I can to work toward my goal set by Heather Sellers in Chapter After Chapter–to read 101 fictional works with the understanding that I will be a much better writer for having done so. As of today, I am on book 74, 1/3 of the way through Celeste Ng’s Little Fires Everywhere.

Query Letters and The Synopsis

What I’m also learning on this quest is that there is no right answer, no one way for doing any of this.

What one agent will tell you about how to write a query letter will not match what the next one tells you.

The same goes for the dreaded synopsis.

I was taught to do it one way. In this month’s Writer’s Digest magazine is an excerpt from Ammi-Joan Paquette, who says the synopsis should be one page for every 10,000 words, meaning a good solid synopsis should be five to eight pages in length.

Only problem with that is when you get down to querying and agents ask for a synopsis, they ask for a short one of 1-3 pages, generally.

It’s all a moving target, and for someone trying to break in, it’s mind boggling.

Rejections

Then there is what to make of rejection letters. Most of them include a sentence that says, “we get so many queries, we don’t have time to provide a personal response why we are passing on your book.” So that’s of no real help.

And then when someone does take the time, it doesn’t jive with what the others have said, so there’s no consensus.

The one consensus is, “I’m not the right fit, but keep trying.”

Triple Digits

I keep getting told not to worry about any of this until I hit triple digits in rejections. That leaves 67 more intolerable more dings and quite possibly more ambiguous reasons for why my book got a pass. And of course there are going to be those agencies that simply don’t respond at all. No dings, I should probably call them.

What an unnerving and humbling and disturbing and troubling process.

It’s time to go get back into Ng’s book, to try to trick my mind and ears to stop listening for the ding, like a teen waiting for a girl to call him.

I’m going to get published. I’m going to find an agent. Where are you? Why is it taking so long?

My Query

THE VOODOO HILL EXPLORER CLUB is a rich blend of STAND BY ME, the Netflix series STRANGER THINGS, and ANNE OF GREEN GABLES. The commercial fiction work would be found in the adult section of a book store and is 89,000 words.

In 1977, four teen boys on an Air Force base in Upper Michigan, led by KIRK CARSON, build a tree house near the secret hideaway of a Russian spy.

Kirk is fighting his own Cold War among friends, a bully, and himself.

To tell the story, he tries to type “I’m trying to change my life,” but instead his typewriter clacks out, “I’m trying to change my lie.” He wishes he could use white out on the whole year.

How Kirk handles the ultimate test of a December blizzard and the Russian spy who has been trying to scare them all out of the woods means life or death for his friends.

THE VOODOO HILL EXPLORER CLUB is a nostalgic reminder of an America where kids played outside until their mothers signaled a summer’s day’s end by turning on the porch light.

I have written in journalism and public relations, and for governors and school superintendents for more than 30 years. Since 2014, I’ve been part of Southern Methodist University’s Writer’s Path program.

read more

Related Posts

Tags

Share This

Pin It on Pinterest