Martha’s Affliction

Marth-Reads-Afflicted-2Martha had once seen a woman eat an orange one after the other, popping wedges into her mouth mechanically, fluidly, her elbow a piston, not stopping to breathe or chew. Martha read books in the same manner. As if reading, like eating oranges, was an affliction.

Writing Superpowers

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Superpowers. We have them (well…we have the imagination to pretend we do).

Power Nap Maneuver

Writing-Super-Powers_Power-NapYou thought it necessary to stay up until 2 a.m. for the seventh night in a row because you have all of those blog entries to write in addition to manuscript revisions and if you don’t tweet right now–#writing–you will never sell a book for as long as you live. But your brain seems to be on strike… Now why would that be? This is a job for the Power Nap Maneuver! The Maneuver includes the ability to sleep through a mid-day session of the fiercest 20-kid game of hide-and-seek-while-violently-and-blindly-throwing-a-ball-around. You may startle awake when projectiles smash into your gated door or threaten to cave in your roof, but you’ll be back in Mr. Darcy’s arms a second later like nothing happened.

Caffeine Super-Charge
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Related to the Power Nap Maneuver, the Caffeine Super-Charge allows you to pay no heed to the normal hours/quantities of coffee beverage intake to which one is supposed to ascribe. There’s writing to be done! Have a grande cappuccino at 6 p.m. and pop a pod into the Keurig three hours later. It ain’t no thang.

Freudian Mindmeld
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While your friends think they’re having a casual chat with you, you’re actually stealing into their brains to psychoanalyze their every word. The Freudian Mindmeld is enhanced by the ability to store this information for years and unconsciously incorporate it into stories written down the line. This ability does not always come with the common sense to artfully mask stories based on real events and people so that they can’t be traced back to a source.

Bubble of Solitude
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It may not be a fortress, but it gets the job done and it’s transportable. How do you like them apples, Kal-El? The Bubble of Solitude can be cast anywhere at any time. At a party when you’re randomly and suddenly struck by a solution to that sticky plot problem you’ve been struggling with? Break out your journal and cast the Bubble of Solitude. You won’t even notice that one guy with the electrical tape pasties doing a strip tease for his best guy friend.

Reading Deathray
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I’m sorry, LeVar Burton; reading isn’t a leisurely romp through flower fields on butterfly wings. Books must be dissected and consumed, one after another. With the Reading Deathray, you are able to destroy sentences and paragraphs while analyzing word usage, symbolism, and form and structure at alarming speeds. Stand back, citizens! You don’t want to witness this chilling inkbath.

Writing
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Seriously.

Anthony Hopkins Reads Small Gods (in my head)

"Now consider the tortoise and the eagle," Hopkins muttered through his muzzle.

“Now consider the tortoise and the eagle,” Hopkins muttered through his muzzle.

I just started reading Terry Pratchett’s Small Gods and, by the second or third sentence, noticed that Anthony Hopkins had taken over narrating duties in my head.

This happens often and particularly with books that have a strong narrative voice. Following are just a few celebrity narrators who have made appearances in my cortical reading room:

Emma Thompson

Sense and Sensibility, Jane Austen (because I watched the movie before reading the book)

Harry Potter series, J.K. Rowling (it tickled me to no end that she was later cast in the movies)

Stephen Fry

Good Omens, Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman

Alan Rickman

Angelmaker, Nick Harkaway

Morgan Freeman

Everything!! Okay…not really.

The Marrow of Tradition, Charles Chesnutt

Helena Bonham Carter

Cold Comfort Farm, Stella Gibbons

I can’t be the only one who summons actors for narrative purposes. Who reads to you?

Book Review: The Djinn in the Nightingale’s Eye

The Djinn ByattAnother book review so soon? YES! I told you I was going to blog more. This was a quick read–I finished it a few days after The Corrections.

If ever you were a lover of fairytales, of sleeping princesses and dragons woken from deep slumbers, of three sisters and genies in bottles; if you don’t mind a modern take on traditional folksy tales without losing the warm, fireside coziness of said tales, you should pick up A.S. Byatt’s The Djinn in the Nightingale’s Eye.

If the title alone doesn’t grab you, the stories will. In this collection of five tales, Byatt presents her reader with stories that may elicit faint recollections of books read as a child, but which take some unorthodox departures from the templates of yore, most blatantly illustrated by “The Story of the Eldest Princess” (every older sister should read this one).

I enjoyed the title story but my personal favorite was “Dragons’ Breath.” The dragons here bear no resemblance to the proud, regal creatures depicted in cartoons and in Medieval art. My favorite quote in the book is also taken from this story:

Such wonder, such amazement, are the opposite, the exact opposite, of boredom, and many people only know them after fear and loss. Once known, I believe, they cannot be completely forgotten; they cast flashes and floods of paradisal light in odd places and at odd times.

The title story is set in modern times, mostly in Turkey. It mixes academic essay, history, mythology and modern fiction, taking the three wishes trope and turning it into something unexpected as the relationship between an English narratologist and a centuries-old djinn develops. Byatt’s voice in this story is exceptionally strong. This was one of few times where, as I was reading, I distinctly sensed the author’s personal story and personality beneath the fiction. This wasn’t a bad thing at all. What I liked best about the title story was getting a rare taste of nonwestern mythology. It makes me want to read more nonwestern stories, alerting me to the fact that my reading lists are grossly limited to western tales. This needs to change.

If anyone has recommendations for mythological, fairytale, or fantasy fiction from a nonwestern perspective, please do make your recommendations in the comments section (other than One Thousand and One Nights/Arabian Nights, which I plan to pick up—it was over my head as a kid).