Stories Make Us Human

Douglas Coupland’s newest novel, Generation A, can be summed up by those simple and aged words.  It is not our gizmos, gadgets, or social networking sites that create our identities, but the stories we create and hear.  And the stories shared that make our communities.  In age becoming increasingly technological and where technology is a part of almost every part of our lives, Coupland writes a story of brilliant social satire.  In fact, he almost loses his readers in the beginning by making his characters fairly disgusting; to the point that most readers probably don’t finish because they may find it difficult to invest anything in them.  They are shallow echoes/shades of the digital generation.

The plot is simple.  Something (no one knows quite what) kills the bees on earth.  But five bees commit suicide by stinging five different people (and separated by several thousand miles).  Why the bees chose these people and what this event means is the focus of scientists who collect the people for testing.

In part, Coupland is right.  Technology has helped people become lost.  However, its not just technology, but the desire to not attach themselves to any stated philosophy or religion.  More so this generation chooses to be individualistic and create their own brand of philosophy and religion and to do this they choose to abandon everything else.  A chain of personal experiences creates the meaning in life, so to speak.  But through creating meaning from these expriences, one can easily lose themselves in the wash of artifical presences (created through digital environments) or thousands of experiences.  With no guiding principle, it is easy to be stationary and thus desirable to live only in the present.  Hence the appeal of Coupland’s alternate universe.

In the end, the story’s premise is not brand new, but his criticisms I have found to be thought-provoking.  Most readers will be annoyed with the either the beginning, the end, or just the story in general, but this story is not meant to be read quickly.  And if anything, the short stories scatttered throughout the end are fantastic and can be read alone.


Finally…soon…a home

This week Brian and I were finally able to get two couches and a coffee table.  Our home is now finally beginning to feel like a home.  And it is great to be able to watch movies sitting on a sofa rather than sitting in kitchen chairs.  So far my goal of mostly decorating our house with second-hand items is working.  We only bought our bookcases new, but then again, my books are dear to my heart.

I saw this today on Design*Sponge.  If our condo was ours, I may be tempted to paint the floors too.  I would probably paint the living room floor in a shade of blue.  It may beat getting a rug later.

And Canada is publishing a book of L.M. Montgomery’s that has not been published before.  It was her last finished work; a ninth book in the Anne series.  However, the publisher says it is dark and rather sad.  I’m not quite sure I want to read, but I know I will once it comes out this Fall.

And summer begins…

With planning a wedding, taking 6 units of graduate school work, and working full-time, I chose to let this blog fall the wayside for a bit.  And also because honestly, I was not reading much besides picture books for my one children’s literature class.  But now we’re married and the classes are over (did excellently in spite of my growing insanity and frustration at class assignments).  Summer has somehow found its way here too with temperatures suddenly over 90.  About time, because I’m ready to go to the beach.

Since coming back from our fabulous honeymoon in Italy, I’ve been reading Marco Polo’s Travels (since we after all in Venice for 2 days) and Book of Lost Things by Connolly.  It’s a nice way to ease back into the habit of reading again.  And to take a break from furiously unpacking.

Hopefully by the end of this weekend we will have our library/study unpacked.  The shelves are up, but I need to weed again some of our books so our favorites can fit on the shelves.  I think I will be putting the OED on a small shelf underneath our stairway.  We’ll see how it looks.  Brian is skeptical.

And eventually, we’ll get a couch.  At least we have our bookshelves.  It felt more like home once they were unpacked and on the shelves.  I do love my books, but not more than my husband.

My Bookshelves

I should be studying, but am not.  I have one final tonight, another project due tomorrow that I need to turn in tonight, and other things.  Instead I find myself checking my Google Reader every half hour or so. Over at Papercuts today there is an entry about the well-stocked bookcase.  I just went through the process of cleaning out my shelves, which means that I got rid of about twenty books (Its like pulling teeth, getting rid of these books).  For my shelves, the constants have been since college: Coupland, Eco, Dillard, Austen, Dostovesky and Orwell to name a few.  Since then, others have joined like Cormac McCarthy, Marilynne Robinson, and John Green.  Some you can see, have just started writing in the last five years (ahem, Green).  Coming home to these books is refreshing at the end of the day.  Even if I don’t touch them or even see them clearly, I still find my heart warmed with the sight of my bookshelves.


inkdeathI was privileged to receive an advance reading copy of Inkdeath. The surprise and joy felt was great. Cornelia Funke wrote a great ending to her Ink trilogy. What I enjoyed most about reading the story was the passion Mo and Meggie had for books, or actually, manuscripts. I am beginning two short courses on Medieval manuscripts and have been doing extensive reading for both classes (only because I love this subject). And as I read Inkdeath I noticed the book binder and illuminator and the tools they used to create their manuscripts. There is a time when someone is writing in the story, and they write upon parchment, use a glass man to stir the ink, and then brush sand upon the manuscript so that the ink will dry. It was great details like this that makes Funke a great author and storyteller. Just like her character, Mo.

I don’t want to spoil any of the story for anyone, but this story was fantastic and shouldn’t disappoint any fans. Each chapter just spurs the reader on to read more and to never put the book down. With its abundance of characters, there will be someone that everyone loves. Each character’s story is complete and satisfactory. And if you can’t remember the previous books, Inkheart or Inkspell, there is a brief two page recap at the beginning of the book and at the back of the book there is a complete list of characters too (yes, with so many characters it is reminiscent of a Russian novel, except the names are pronounceable).

The only question that Inkdeath leaves, is one that is beginning to be asked at the end of Inkspell, and that is, who is really writing the story of Inkheart? Is it Cornelia? Fenaglio? Orpheus? Or even Mo? Or by entering the story, has the characters actions determined the story? I found myself asking this as I finished Inkdeath. Who is the author? Or were the characters in the end writing their own story?

So Long for Books?

A couple months ago (or maybe it was longer) I wrote about how Acres of Books was closing Long Beach. Now, not only is Acres of Books closing, but the Long Beach Public Library is going to close its downtown library and extend hours of its branches due to budget concerns. This is such a travesty for the city of Long Beach where books other than the popular fiction is going to be scarce.  Ray Bradbury wrote a piece here at the local paper: Is Long Beach at War with Books?.  If you have ever seen Ray Bradbury in person and heard him talk, this piece will remind you of those times where he spent days at the libraries and read books upon books.  When there are budget concerns, is books really the first place you want to cut?

And Acres officially began their Closing Sale today. They stopped purchasing and receiving books a couple months ago when the sale of the building was first made, but now the closing is coming all the closer.

Link to story on Acres of Books Closing: LA Times

Quote of the Day

“In the peaceful seclusion of the monasteries a small part of literature of the ancients has survived the wreck of the classical world.” H.L. Pinner

When you think about the amount of books that were created in the ancient worlds (and nothing compared to this day and age), and how little survived, it is amazing.

“For every sheet of parchment or papyrus which has been preserved to the present day, it is safe to say that thousands of such sheets have been destroyed for ever. The ravages of time, the excesses of military conquest, the bigotry of religious zealots, the fury of fire and flood, and the carelessness of the ignorant and unthinking have all taken their toll, and what is left is but a fragment of the records once written in ages past.” D.C. McMurtrie

Though yesterday at our library we found a book named Lucille by Owen Meredith, who apparently wrote very bad poetry and yet his book survived (or nearly, all the cotton from the padded binding was falling out) at least 125 years.