Book Discussion- “Let Me Tell You What I Mean”

Joan Didions’s Let Me Tell You What I Mean is the perfect title for what to expect in these newly published short stories. These 12 stories (mostly short essays), were actually written between 1968 and 2000; they just never got published until this year. These previously unseen stories give us a closer glimpse into Didion’s mind through various topics. Ranging from a fictional account of someone at a Gamblers Anonymous meeting to an essay confronting Martha Stewart’s authenticity, these essays cover a wide range of situations. Nonetheless, each is a display of Didion’s fascinating prose and insight into the human condition.

Within this collection of essays, there are quite literally two that directly address Didion’s signature style and how she crafts her stories. Her previous work at Vogue has a direct impact on her writing still to this day. She had to keep things concise and really become a master of the English language because of the limited characters. This translates into her writing- it’s very journalistic and almost psychological. Everything in this collection- whether fiction or nonfiction- reads as fiction because of this journalistic approach. It adds a serious tone to everything she writes which pairs well with the dry humor and the underlying philosophical themes she often includes. Every sentence is profound and a clear reflection of what Didion is thinking. The last sentence of “Getting Serenity” particularly struck me- “I got out fast then, before anyone could say “serenity” again, for it is a word I associate with death, and for several days after that meeting I wanted only to be in places where the lights were bright and no one counted days.” (15) In just this one sentence, the narrator’s complex emotions had a lingering effect on me. The repeated use of “I” combines the narrator’s emotions with mine, forcing empathy. In theme with the story, the sentence’s calm tone has a serene feeling. The juxtaposition of this tone with the narrator’s seemingly opposite reaction leaves us questioning what it really feels like to find “serenity.”

In addition to the distinct prose throughout these stories, there are continued emotional themes throughout this collection. Themes of authenticity and anxiety are central to almost all stories, especially my favorites, which are “Getting Serenity” and “everywomen.com.” “Getting Serenity” is a short about a person in a Gambler’s Anonymous meeting who quickly leaves. Within just one scene only taking up a few pages, Didion is able to overpower the reader into almost becoming one with the narrator’s first person thoughts. However, we must detach ourselves to see the bigger picture to come to our own conclusions about the boundaries of indulging in vices. 

In “everywomen.com” Didion wanted to examine authenticity through her acute deatilling of who Martha Stewart really is. Didion, in detective-like investigation, explores the seemingly perfect career of Stewart. She uses this evidence to show us readers that there is always more than meets the eye, which is especially relevant in modern times when it feels like celebrities are worshipped. Furthermore, Didion goes deeper into the real meaning of why Stewart is so celebrated. Didion concludes that it’s more than just the attraction of her perfect lifestyle, but rather society’s influence on the role of women. 

In conclusion, the shortness of these essays should not undermine the meaningfulness. Every one of them is profound and is an excellent display of Didion’s ability to transfer her personal thoughts on paper. Her prose is unique and gives a reading experience like no other. Anyone who dreams of becoming a writer or something similar must read this collection to see how an icon of American writing came to be. 

TV Show Review- Shcitt’s Creek

Shcitt’s Creek is concrete evidence that modern television- especially sitcoms- is just as quality as any other era. With the rise of online streaming, there seems to be another show every week, but Schitt’s Creek isn’t just any other show- it’s an accurate perception of the modern family and most importantly, it’s funny.

Before we get into the actual review, I would just like to take a moment to appreciate another aspect of the show that surprised me- the styling/fashion. The Rose’s (main family) are a family of elegance, so it’s only natural that their clothes reflect their wealth. But the stylists went above and beyond. The family is seen in archival designers I never thought I would see, ranging from Rick Owens, Ann Demeulemeester, Alexander McQueen, etc. Not only are the pieces beautiful, but so are the full outfits. Catherine O’Hara’s characters style is downright a source of inspiration.

Moving on, I found the Rose’s family relationships to be extremely accurate. In modern media, I often find the parent-child relationship to be made something it’s not. The often sarcastic remarks from the children (and sometimes the parents), out of touch parents, and just relationship in general can be so extra it becomes unnatural, but this is not the case here. I find the combination of the fantastic acting with the accurate scenarios to really create a nature portrayal of the modern family.

Finally, this show is funny! If have read my posts before, you know I love dry and witty humor, and that is all full display in this show. The characters all have their funny quirks and it’s very entertaining to see how they play out with others. In conclusion, this is great show all around. To be fair, I am only halfway through the second season. I feel like I’m just getting a tad bored so I’m gonna put in on pause for now. Nonetheless, I don’t have any major problems with it yet. I’m going to give it 4/5 stars- just likes that certain something to make it a masterpiece.

Moira Rose’s (Catherine O’Hara) looks

Book Discussion (A Separate Peace)

Another teen male coming of age story… so who cares? Actually, John Knowles “A Separate Piece” deserves its spot as a classic. Knowles unrestrained emotion combined with his clement yet dense descriptions create a truly moving story of adolescence.

Knowles writing has a very slow burning affect which allows for him to really indulge in imagery and explore Genes(our protagonist and narrator) thoughts. Set in a New England boarding school, there is a lot of scenic descriptions throughout. These descriptions are quite beautiful to read- “in which the snow, white almost to blueness, lay like a soft comforter over the hills, and birches and pines indestructibly held their ground.” (132). We become teleported to where Gene is, and furthermore, become induced emotionally by the weather just as Gene is.

Another aspect furthered by the vivid descriptions is Knowles melancholy and quiet tone throughout. This matches the somber tone of the story, which in turn stresses the sadness in the story. His quiet tone almost has a numbing, or indifferent affect on the reader- which is exactly how the boys feel in response to the war. This deliberate tone to match and lay importance to certain emotions in this novel is truly amazing to read. Every sentence is not only profound in description but emotion as well.

Being a coming of age story, there are so many messages and teachings to impact. There are messages about friendship, finding oneself, and also larger questions about the war and what it really means. The main idea that resonated with me was Knowles wanting us to be ok with finding our “separate” selves. Especially as a teenager, we often shun part of selves to fit in. Wether it be turning away from things you find important to find things more “popular” or joining a war as part of some obligation, we often do things we don’t necessarily want because we feel that would be judged otherwise. Furthermore, there is a sense of comfort found in being part of something bigger. However, Knowles doesn’t want that to happen. We shouldn’t be afraid to be separated from anyone or thing, especially if it doesn’t feel right in our hearts. Through prioritizing finding our “separate” selves, we can find true fulfillment.

In conclusion, this book is truly a masterpiece. From it’s deep emotional impact to its beautiful writing, it has become one of my favorite coming of age stories. I highly recommend it to anyone.

Book Discussion (Slaughterhouse 5)

Having discussed two Vonnegut novels on this blog already, it was only a matter of time before I turned to one of my favorite authors. This time I read what many refer to be his magnum opus, Slaughterhouse 5. When starting a Vonnegut book, you can never know what to expect. This is still the case here. The narrative perspective changes and can be confusing often, but it’s not too bad. For the discussion I’m going to stray away from plot and prose and just really focus on takeaways, as I find there are a lot in this book.

The main message I got from this book is that the world is absurd. There are so many contradictories in daily life that are impossible to understand. More importantly- as we see through Vonnegut’s blunt writing- more than often you are going to have to succumb to a high-power. This doesn’t make you a loser or chump, it’s just something that happens and you have to accept it. Wether it be directly an authority figure or an act of fate, your life will often be thrown for a loop and your’e going to have to deal with it. Nonetheless, there are still many ways to enjoy life, but also wrong ways. A simple solution to living with fulfillment is to find anything that brings you joy, and simply do it; wether it be something long term like a career or just reading something you like. These acts of enjoyment is the real key to living a successful life.

Furthermore, we shouldn’t try to rationalize every action. The phrase “so it goes” is often repeated in this novel. While a simple phrase, it holds weight. Things happen for no reason at all, and we should be ok with that. In conclusion, this book is full of important lessons taught with Vonnegut’s dry humor throughout. It is a great read and I highly recommend it to anyone.

Book Discussion (The Maltese Falcon)

Dashiell Hammett’s The Maltese Falcon is a cool, fast paced mystery novel that is a light but action packed read. If I was to describe this book in one word it would be cool. Hammett’s prose is very suave, producing a calm effect as the words glide across the page into your head. This pairs well with the protagonist, detective Sam Spades, nonchalant attitude. Nonetheless, the action and suspenseful scenes are still enticing. They aren’t too over the top as they build up naturally. In addition, the essence of mystery is constantly at change throughout the novel. This novel does a good job of keeping the mystery at large without just pushing back objective after objective. In conclusion, it’s a fast pace novel that is very entertaining to read; you can’t go wrong it.

Movie Review (Trainspotting)

This was my second time watching Trainspotting (I watched it for the first time last year), and I found the replay value to be equally entertaining to the first time watch. This movie is full of energy and is just tremendously fun to watch. I think a main reason of why this movie is so good is the characters. They’re very realistic in nature, but still all flamboyant in their own way. Combined with the wild adventures they embark upon, you never truly know what’s going to happen. In addition, the cinematic experience is also a journey of its own. There are some fun shots and sequences that really create a sensation similar to the rush the addicts feel.

Despite this movie being full of amusement, there are some serious undertones and dilemmas that provoke serious thinking. While we can’t help for cheering for the characters good fortune, they still are heroin addicts. While I don’t think we are supposed to fully idolize these characters, I don’t think we’re supposed to turn our heads from disgust. I honestly think it comes down to the viewer to be the judge of wether these characters garner our respect. I can’t help but appreciate their nihilistic attitude, but there are consequences that I can’t forgive. Therefore I think this movie is perfect because of its balance of pure entertainment and thoughtfulness. I also recently picked up the novel so I will be reading that shortly.

Book Discussion/The Return! (The Wind-Up Bird Chronicles)

Alas! I’m finally back! I apologize for my lack of posts, this summer has been quite a busy one. I have been working at a local coffee shop, applying for college, and much more. In addition, I went through a little writing slump. Nonetheless, I was still reading quite a lot, just didn’t quite feel like blogging. However, I’m very excited to be back. My most recent read was an interesting one, Haruki Murakami’s The Wind-Up Bird Chronicles. On the cover, one review got my attention saying the book is “dream-like”. I imagined this description in all the wrong ways. I thought it would be Kafkaesque or maybe just pure science fiction. But it was truly “dream-like”. The interesting characters with strange purposes, the constant flashbacks that adds complexities, or the actual dream scenes with many oddities, this is a book unlike any others. It really reminds me of anything David Lynch, it’s quite absurd but not entirely overwhelmingly fictional. However, Murakami isn’t afraid to probe more into human’s desire and thoughts. There is a lot of emotion within each character, and Murakami does a good job of translating their darkest thoughts onto paper. In conclusion, I was really pleasantly surprised with this novel and I look forward to reading more from Murakami.

Book Discussion (Mother Night)

After reading Kurt Vonnegut’s Cats Cradle, I knew this wouldn’t be the last time I read his works. His stylish prose and creative storylines are some of the best I have read. This story may not have much literal action scenes, but it’s so enticing. I finished it in one day because I couldn’t put it down. It’s a new favorite of mine, but for what reasoning it’s hard to describe with words. The story itself is filled with detail but it still very accessible- it’s merely a fictional account of German propagandist during WW2. Yet Vonnegut pushes the boundary of humor and describing emotion to create a beautiful story.

What I love most about reading is to read and discover different peoples perspectives on life. Further, emotions off the page can conjure up similar emotions in me which is an amazing process. Vonnegut does this so well- this novel is like a pure stream of conscious. In addition, the melancholy humor is very cut and dry but is still hilarious nonetheless. In conclusion, I think this may be one of the greatest novels ever. I don’t really know how to discuss it because it has elevated feelings in me that I can’t quite write yet. So please do yourself a favor and read this book.

Book Discussion (The Importance of being Earnest)

After reading The Picture of Dorian Gray, I could see why Oscar Wilde’s work is still so popular today. His dry and witty humor is still hilarious to this day, and are a main reason why he’s as popular as he is today. But how his humor combines with his underlying messages to create an aspect of social commentary is really what makes his work timeless. It’s exactly this combination that makes The Importance of Being Earnest a lively play with an earnest message at heart.

Unlike The Picture of Dorian Gray, this play is overall much more jolly. Nonetheless, there are important lessons in the play, but I will cover that later. Wilde’s humor is at full display here- quirky one liners, constant irony, and much more to make a 17 year old boy laugh even today. Similar to the aesthetic motto at the time, Wilde truly makes humor for humor sake all throughout this play. However, the way he uses humor to mock the rich furthers this play to make it more than just a comedy. Simply put, Wilde wants all of us to be more honest with ourselves. As a result, we can attract the right people for the right reasons without having to lie. After all, lying is the easiest way to fatigue our creativity- something that Wilde would never want to happen.

Book Discussion (The Metamorphosis)

After reading Franz Kafka’s The Castle, my interest was peaked enough for me to buy The Metamorphosis. I was a ted hesitant at first though- his prose is strange and is hard to read. But his insight was overwhelmingly powerful that I had to read more. What I discovered in The Metamorphosis was a fascinating, somewhat humorous case study of the modern man in more accessible language.

Right away, this story was much easier to read. Nonetheless, the language was profound enough to create complexity. It still has the kafkaesque prose, just offered more clarity. This made Gregor’s case much more easier to analyze. The way Kafka can form the deep human thoughts about what we are doing in this world into this absurd story but still be very relatable is truly moving. He is able to harness these emotions and translate them into a dark yet humorous story that can tell us a lot about we want. He offers a lot of room for personal interpretation, which is an aspect of writing I have learned to appreciate.

While short, there is something to be studied on every page. Kafka writes every detail with purpose, and it just by trying to apply it to your own life leaves you changing, or enter a personal metamorphosis. I think every one should read this book, for it deals with issues we can relate to universally.