Wednesday, July 29, 2009

...he normally would have said no, would normally have said no that it looked too hokey to have a hatchet on your belt.

Gary Paulsen, Hatchet, p. 9

I'd never met him before. Or knew he existed. The boy who started reading Hatchet and got bored near the end. Gary Paulsen's adventure tale is like the holy grail of books you hand towards "reluctant readers." Once they've read that, you can branch out into the sequels, the rest of Gary Paulsen's books, and then My side of the mountain...its sequels, and voila! you have a reader.

True confessions? I've never actually read Hatchet. Like Bunnicula in my bookselling days, it is a book that I know is a winner, so I hand sell it by plot. (It's about a bunny who is a vegetarian vampire.) Or, in the case of Hatchet, it's about a boy who gets stranded and all he has to survive is his hatchet.

So I seriously need to bone up on my books for reluctant sixth grade boys. He wouldn't take Hiassen's Hoot, and I forgot about Lupica. (Heat is an amazing book, fun, so much that you wonder why it's in with all the angsty YA books.)

And about that. Why aren't there more fun books for boys going into 6th grade? Must it all be Crutcher (his Chinese Handcuffs was the most requested to be banned book of its era) or Christopher Pike (king of horror). And honestly, would you hand sell Christopher Pike to a kid whose mom is hovering, saying "We have to find a book so we can tell her what you're reading." Her. I wonder if it's a teacher, or just a nosy aunt. Probably a teacher. There is so much more I could have recommended if I could have gotten the boy to shed his tough guy exterior, which with hovering mama there, wasn't going to happen. So I gave him Crutcher's Athletic Shorts. Saw the red dot (our code for more mature YA books) too late. WHY didn't I remember Lupica???

He wanted a book about hockey. But I couldn't hand him Matt Christopher, not after I found out he was going into sixth grade. Bruce Brooks wrote that series back in the late 90s, but the books are short (91 pages!) and most libraries don't carry paperback series that are ten years old. (We don't.) (Oh, unless it's R.L. Stine, Christopher Pike, or the Boxcar Children.) None of which I would have gotten away with recommending to this tough guy almost 6th grader and his hovering mama.

Which is not to say that hovering mamas are evil--if it weren't for her, I doubt he would have stepped foot into the library yesterday.

But it's frustrating. So off I go, to find the Notables list and the Reluctant Readers lists, bone up on my "what you recommend to a tough guy 6th grader who got bored at the end of Hatchet."

Oh, and I have a copy of Hatchet on my desk. I think it's about time I read it.

Monday, July 27, 2009

"My job is to choreograph chaos"

Mira Nair, director of Monsoon Wedding (Spoilers, beware)

Movies move me. If you are a long-time reader of this blog, you know that I will spend money to go see a movie in the theatre, more than once if I really like it.

Often I will watch a movie many times over, to get to the essence of it, or to get again that feeling of aaaaaah! one gets from watching a wonderful Cinderella, told again and again, on the big screen. Last weekend, it was Confessions of a Shopaholic. Fluff, to be sure, but good fluff. It was colorful, it made me laugh, it taught me about shopping. It would be a stretch to say it taught me about personal finance, but it did, a little bit.

Monsoon Wedding, on the other hand, is a movie I've seen once and will probably watch again, but I could only watch it that one time, there was so much chaos that you needed a break. It was not something I could pick up and rewind, watch again right away (although DVDs have taken away the need to rewind...)

Our church has had somewhat of a baby boom. We have had seven babies since January, and one is about to pop, and one is wearing her "bump." That's a lot for any church, but especially one with about 75 adults in attendance each week. (It's a 10% population increase!) I have been for the past two (at least) years wondering why people want babies, or more importantly, why I don't. Yesterday sitting in church, I saw kids running around and I thought, ack! Why would someone want to carry one of those for nine months and then have to discipline it for 18 years? (You see how I have separated love out, as if that part, which is usually the impetus to having children, making a family, doesn't exist.)

In the movie Monsoon Wedding, Ria Verma, the brides's cousin, is jaded. She doesn't want to get married, she wants to go to the U.S. and study Creative Writing. She reminds me of myself, she reminds me of Carrie, who's not sure she's the marrying kind. (I just recently re-watched The Baby Shower, where Carrie is seven days late and wondering if she could be a mother.) I don't see myself as a nun, or a monk, a person that has the "gift" of singleness. And yet, why do I not want children? Why is finding a husband before 40 not at the tip top of my goals?

Some of it, of course, is that the longer you are single, the more comfortable you get in that role. I mean, why bother? Then there is the alternate, what happens after you stop being single: people couple up, family trumps friends. Unless of course you are a couple and/or have kids too. This is a gross overstatement of what happens, of course. Of course your friend has less time, she now has a child to rear. And that is important. But it is hard for the one "left behind." No more long talks, no more coffee every week, instead it is phone conversations peppered with, "Mary, stop that!" or "John, I'm talking to my friend on the phone right now." (What is it about kids, they glom onto you as soon as you turn your attention to the telephone?)

I still have friends that are single and in their late twenties, early thirties, who say things like "well, my husband will be like x" or "when I have kids..." And listening to them, I wonder what has happened to me. That I have lost that dream, that I really only want to get my M.F.A in Creative Writing?

Some of it may stretch from heroine worship--Madeleine L'Engle had her first book published before she got married. But most of it is callouses on my heart. I've been hurt before and I don't believe that there could be a man out there that I could stand to spend longer than six months with. It's easier to go to work, go home, watch re-runs of SATC, and live vicariously through movies like Confessions of a Shopaholic.

But every once in a while, I watch a movie that cracks that callous a little bit, revealing to me a tiny nugget of truth. Monsoon Wedding is one of those movies. Ria Verma, we eventually learn, doesn't want to get married because she had been sexually molested as a child by a relative. And in the movie, she sees this relative, an uncle, begin the cycle again, with one of her younger cousins. In an amazing moment, the father of the bride shuns this uncle, sends him packing, saying, you are no longer welcome here. And by the end of the movie, Ria is making flirtatious eyes with one of the wedding guests. Ah. Of course healing from childhood abuse doesn't happen in the course of 15 minutes of screen time, but we get the point. Ria is on her way to healing, because her uncle stood up for her, because she was seen as valuable and worthy of protection, and because she helped to protect the next generation.

I am also on my way to healing. What a long road it is... When I was seventeen, I dated a man who was dangerous. A man who didn't pack guns or ammunition, but who numbed my heart, took away my innocence and made me distrust men. Twenty years later, I am still numb. My dating life has been a graveyard of spending time with men who weren't good for me, men that I wouldn't recommend to anyone. There was maybe the one who got away, but it seems that in the end he was just in the closet.

So I'm 37, and there has been no great love. And why not? Because when I was 17, I let a boy kiss me, and it started something that I'm still untangling today.


More movies to un-numb your heart:

The quiet ones that make you think:
Broken English with Parker Posey. (Watch all the "making of" bits too, this is the director's first movie.)
Before Sunset (sequel to Before Sunrise, which is NOT a first date movie, nevertheless I did see it on a first date on Valentine's Day. ICK. I imagine my view of it now would be different.)

Fun movies that are a little more than fluff:
Just Sex and nothing else (Hungarian--you have to be willing to do subtitles)
Once (Dublin!) (and the music is amazing)
The Family Stone
Wedding Bell Blues (which I just noticed came out on DVD! Woot!)
Caramel (more subtitles, it takes place in Lebanon)

Total fluff (but we all need that sometimes):
While you were sleeping
You've got mail
Confessions of a shopaholic
How to lose a guy in ten days
Failure to Launch

(if I linked everything I'd be here forever, and you know how to use Google.)

As a movie lover, I always wonder why there are so many book sites, like Goodreads or Shelfari or Library Thing, where one can talk about the books they love, and not so many where you can talk about the movies you love.

(So, Cuileann, I blogged. Without my laptop. We writers just need a little encouragement, non?)