If I learnt anything from my school going days – or life in general really – it is surely that any questions that attempt to delve deeper than the prerequisite curriculum demands of any subject matter are questions that will have you either immediately dismissed or, most likely, laughed at. Somehow I have not yet learned to stop asking them. Questions keep me up at night. They plague me during the day. And they continue to haunt until they have been satiated.
Last week someone walked into a college in Oregon with a gun and killed a bunch of people. This kind of story has become so commonplace lately that surprise doesn’t even register anymore. I still get that wave of dread that washes over me though. These things make a thousand questions flood my mind. How does this happen? Where do they get the guns? Why these particular people? Why that particular school? What made him make this decision? Does this happen so much in America because it happens in America? Is it a monkey-see-monkey-do scenario?
Mister God, This is Anna is a book a bout a man who finds a little girl wandering the streets, and he takes her home. This always tickles me, because: how insane! Granted it does sort of explain itself out of that hole, and the book is set in the 1930s so it is forgivable, but still, it makes me giggle. Then again, if you pulled that kind of thing today, would anyone notice? I think it’s probably less likely than we expect.
Anyway, the book is ok, I suppose. I don’t think you need to be a believer in God to enjoy it, you simply need to be respectful of religion, I suppose. Anna is a precocious little thing who spends her days puzzling the narrator, Fynn, with intense questions and poignant observations about the world around her. It does get a bit blahblahblah in the middle, but all-in-all it is quite a sweet story.
Over the weekend I was mock-pouting at my husband for “abandoning” me to go and run a marathon (seriously: why do folks in their 30s insist on this weird phenomenon?) and for the fact that I was up way too early on a Sunday morning because of his sudden need to sports. I then jokingly grumpy-yelled at him that he needed to go and find me a book to read and that he should be aware that the state of our relationship depended on his choice.
This is the book he brought me. I imagine it is because it was one of about 3 that he has read in my entire library.
So this book has a copyright date of 1976. Now honestly I find that quite impressive because often when I read older books, I find them filled with cliches. This is not necessarily the fault of the authors themselves, because maybe they weren’t cliches back then but they are today. Anyway – this book is quite low on the cliches and I love that becauseI personally suck at steering clear of cliches in my own writing, but am quite adept at spotting them in the work of others.
This is a fast-paced read and it’s heavy on the dialogue. Somehow it’s easy to read without being annoying, in fact sometimes it’s even quite charming with a hint of humour that doesn’t try too hard to be funny. It’s not meant to be a grand masterpiece and that’s fine. Just something easy to read over a couple of days before moving onto something a little more taxing, perhaps?
I loved the relationship between the protagonist and his sidekick. She is a lesbian, which is a subject barely tackled in the novel. I love how flippantly it is treated, like it was no biggie for those days. Then again, I suppose he is also treated as if his burglaring is no biggie, just an extension of himself. (I mean no offense in comparing homosexuality to burglaring – of course I don’t think they are the same. I am merely pointing out that these two characters were beautifully accepting of each other while never making any sort of big deal about the acceptance. It was nice. Especially out of a time when such things were far more taboo than they are now.)
Some books are kind of lovely when you think back on them, have you ever noticed that? It happens to me a lot. I find myself slogging through something that everyone else seems to have loved (I mean come on – this was one hella popular book at one point) and just longing to get to the end so that I can move on, and then once I’m done I kind of look back and go “hmmm that was good” and I feel all glad to have made the effort. Is that insane? I’m starting to think that maybe it is…
Anyway, The Lovely Bones is well written, of course. And the concept of it all is quite sweet. I want to rewatch the movie sometime (I remember not loving it before, but that is all I remember about it) so that I can compare the two. But I didn’t love this book. It is sad. And kind of heavy. Some folks say that it is hopeful but I didn’t feel that way about it at all. It was just heavy…
I never really know how to rate books that are good but that I didn’t enjoy. Enjoyment seems to be the point. I can understand how some might enjoy it, of course, so I can still value it’s merit. But I didn’t love it. And I think that loving it is kind of important. So my apologies for the 3 star rating, as I do feel that the book maybe deserves more. It just doesn’t deserve more from me.
Anyone who knows me knows that JK Rowling is my queen and that I’d be the first to vote for her as world president. For one: you can tell a LOT about someone by reading their books, and she is no exception. Her heart, humour, and humanity is written all over those pages. She is so beautiful to me. She always has been.
But with this Lumos video? She’s outdone herself. I can’t stop thinking about just how much sense this makes. And I cannot fault how right she is. Thank you. Jo, for being the beautiful humanitarian that you are. We all have so much to learn from you.
I am addressing this letter to the local news sources in my city, but I have to wonder if perhaps it shouldn’t be directed at all news sources in general. Today my heart is fighting between giving in to utter futility and roaring out loud with an all-consuming anger.
A while ago I stumbled upon an article in The Daily Mail about how refugees coming ashore in Greece were really making British holiday makers uncomfortable. Now I have come to expect this kind of revolting angle of reporting from The Daily Mail so the fact that they were absolute arrogant idiots about it didn’t surprise me at all, but I was nevertheless disgusted. Here were some people, who were fleeing across the ocean in search of sanctuary, and the Britons were moaning that they didn’t feel comfortable sipping cocktails while there were people loitering around and begging for food. People who were lost. Confused. Hungry. Exhausted. And crippled by a language barrier.
I thought about that for a few days and then I guess I moved on. Life, as you know, has a way of making us do that.
Another Syrian plight that gave me pause was the picture of the Syrian child with her hands up in surrender, because she thought a photographer’s camera was a gun. That image haunted me for a little longer than the idiocy of The Daily Mail and the part of the story that they weren’t telling.
And then on Wednesday night, I was milling through my Facebook timeline and I stumbled upon the photograph of a little boy washed ashore. My heart crawled into my throat. I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t click on that picture and look at it properly. But I had to. Because it was damn important.
I did not sleep well on Wednesday night. In the last two days I have learned of myself that I don’t want to move on anymore. I want to move forward.
Finally, last night, after a day of stifling tears here and there, so as not to alarm my children, I gave in to the emotions that where overwhelming me and I finally sobbed myself to sleep.
I cried for almost two hours over the loss of Aylan (and Rihan) Kurdi. Their deaths mark the very essence of the lack of humanity that has our entire world in a vice grip. Their deaths remind me that I have a child capable of dying. Their deaths remind me that life is worth preserving.
The death of Aylan Kurdi has the power to shake this whole world on it’s head. The death of Aylan Kurdi has the power to give us all the wake up we so seriously need.
And yet? At the time of writing this, neither AlgoaFM nor The Herald have so much as acknowledged his existence. Or at least not enough for the story to have travelled to their Facebook pages. News24 has at least touched on the plight of the Syrians in a sort of cursory manner, but you guys?
How can you not see how important this story is? How can you put more political rubbish on the front page when THIS is happening? Your front page tells us that the education system in South Africa is in bad shape. We already know that!
I am not usually one to bemoan the things others choose to care about. I don’t yell “Why such a fuss about a lion when there is rape?” or “Why do you care about animals when people are starving?” I get that the things that touch us are different. And I also get that caring about one thing does not mean you do not care about another.
But this? This feels like one of those things that absolutely everyone should be talking about. Everyone should be wrecked about it. And if we live in a society that is insensitive to these things, we should be reminding each other why this is so important.
So I say shame on you! You are in such a position of power. You are in a position where the choices you make and the stories you tell could actually AFFECT the lives and hearts of real people. You could play a part in increasing the softness in the world. And today you chose to hide under the shadow of bureaucracy instead. Shame on you. I cannot accept that you are robots operating under a set of rules that barely take into consideration the true human condition, and yet today’s paper reads as if that is the case.
Today you could have been telling me about the plights of refugees in our country. You could have been telling me about where our country stands when it comes to people like the Syrians who are so desperate to find new homes. I want to know this. I want answers. I want to know if my country helps other countries because I have no idea about any of that. I want to know if there is anything I can do from right here to help those people. I want to know if I will be arrested if I happen to take a boat load of Syrian people home. The possibility of being arrested might not stop me, but I still want to know. Why aren’t you telling me?
There are people who want to help. Not just in this situation but in many situations. You could tell us how.
But the same old same old political drama is on The Herald’s front page again today. Somehow political party versus political party is more important than the fact that our fellow humans are dying in absolute terror by the thousands. And all because they are so desperate to save their families. No. Their story has been squished into a small box on page 6. Barely a story. Where you quote…you guessed it… The Daily Mail. You don’t even mention that Cameron has given in to the pressure put on him by his people to accept more asylum seekers. The people, every day citizens like you and me, made that man change his mind. THAT IS NEWS!!
In case you don’t know why is it news, I am going to tell you: We the people understand families. We understand people. We understand love and fear and pain.
So please, for humanity’s sake, when there are children washing up on the beaches of this world, choose them. Choose them even though you think people will not care. Choose them even though you think that pictures of dead children will upset people. The people need to be upset. The people need to cry. And we need to care.
Because we are all people. We are all capable of putting ourselves in the shoes of someone else.
I had one “plan” for Spring Day today: see if my razor is capable of navigating through the forrest that I have been growing all over my body. Of course, that didn’t happen because it’s too damn cold today and I’m pretty sure all that fuzz is actually keeping me warmer than usual. Instead of the evening with my usual – tv/ipadding/tea – I found myself on Google, investigating costs for trips – sans tv! I reckon it’s time to plan a new adventure, even if I can’t take it anytime soon. I imagine that it is in all the not planning that all these things that we want to happen don’t. If that doesn’t sound particularly profound it is because it isn’t. And yet? Well…and yet the plans are hardly ever made because we’re always waiting for one bloody thing or another. Bugger it. My head is too buzzy for waiting. And so I’m making plans and checking out hotel prices and silly things like that.
But even though I’m in the very dreamy stages of planning right now, what I want to know is:
Where are the weird places to go? The quaint and quirky and wonderful?
Where is the most interesting place you have ever been?
I’m still feeling a little grumpy after reading this article on The Herald website yesterday. I can’t seem to be able to stop thinking about it.
You see… I did not choose to home school my kid because I necessarily think school institutions are terrible. I don’t. At least not all of them. Obviously there are good and bad points to just about anything. But I think this sort of thing kind of makes me realise that I might very well never send my kid to “real” school. Because if I did, I wouldn’t be able to help being that mom who complains every five minutes. Yes. I’d be the mom that all the teachers hate. I’d be discussed in the staff room. I’d make people cry. It probably wouldn’t be good.
If you didn’t read the article, it tells of how the Grade 11 pupils at Alex High School are looking after fake babies for two weeks. If the point of this exercise was some sort of tepid initiation into the trials of parenthood, that would be one thing (although I have some serious concerns about even that!) but no. The exercise is to promote abstinence.
To quote The Herald:
The high school is conveying the importance of sexual abstinence to its Grade 11s in a clever way – making them experience what being a parent is all about.
So I actually finished this book over the weekend (Well…on Monday but that was a holiday so it was still the weekend) but haven’t quite been able to accurately decide what I “think” about it. I’d heard this book being accused of trying to be “bigger” than what it actually is so I kind of had that in the back of my head while reading it, but I gotta tell you: I didn’t get that. I don’t think John Green tries to be anything. He just kind of is. And it feels to me that without trying he says so incredibly much. I love this man’s soul, and it lives in those pages. What a beautiful soul.
I don’t know how to write any of this without stepping on a hundred toes. I don’t know how to write this without accidentally throwing accusations where they might not necessarily belong. But when it comes to broken teenagers, well this shit gets to me, and I have stuff to say that might not be liked. And I imagine that I will probably say it badly, with disconnected thoughts peppered by disconnected rage. For that I apologise.
My heart is feeling a little heavy today. Last night I noticed a few posts of a missing teenager in Northgate going around. I considered sharing one, but something told me there’s no point and so I didn’t. This morning I see she was found at the Northgate Mall where it looks like she leapt to her death. The News24 article reporting the story tells of other teenage suicides over the past while, one of which occurred after a boy was forced to publicly apologise for cheating on his exams. A twelve year old shot herself because the girls in her class were mean to her. I don’t know why Kiara took her own life. I imagine it had something to do with the very real stress that consumes you as a child, but is brushed off by adults as “kids being kids”.
And my question is this: Why do grownups never do anything? Do we turn thirty and someone how all forget what it’s like to be in high school? Or what it’s like to be in junior school or play school for that matter! Or is it that the devastation of the bullied something only very few people experience and therefore not enough people are equipped to cope with it? Why are we not constantly reminding our children that yes, being young can be bloody awful, but don’t worry, once you hit your twenties you somehow find your tribe and it gets so much better. Instead we bully them ourselves with stories of how high school is supposed to be the best time of your life (*vomit*) and preach how they should be grateful that they’re not grownup yet. Well you know what? As much as I hate paying bills, as much as I am still a generally stressed out human being, I don’t cry myself to sleep four times a week anymore. I don’t loathe every part of myself. I am not so consumed by what is wrong with me that I can barely function. I don’t have to put on a fake brave face anymore. I can say what I am feeling when I am feeling it. And I know that if you’re a dick to me, I can call you out for being a dick and I’ll have ten fantastic friends standing right behind me ready to set your dickish ass on fire. I did not have that as a school going child. So fuck high school and how great it is to be a kid. It’s not great to be a kid for everyone, and it’s about damn time that people in charge of fragile children actually realise that.
I have become myself lately. It is a weird thing to say perhaps. Cliched, most probably. But true nonetheless. I’ve always been the way I am, really, but over the last few years I’ve gotten better at it. Or worse, depending on how you feel about it. Sometimes I tell myself to be less. But then I just laugh. Say fuck. And carry on. Possibly while mumbling something obnoxious like sorry not sorry.
Thanks to Facebook’s new little memory lane feature (which is more comprehensive than Timehop) I keep being reminded of the people who have come and gone in my life over the years. I keep coming across someone and going “Oh wow, I wonder how they are?” only to discover that they’ve deleted me and therefore sending them a “hey how are you” message would just be awkward. It’s no biggie obviously. But it is kind of funny how often I can look at a specific person and go, “hmmmm…I think my particular brand of human is not quite for you.” It’s usually the people who are all gushy “oh you’re so cool because xyz” who end up having a huge (unspoken) offence because of zxy. That’s how it works around here, folks. I’m guilty of the same.
And that’s where my husband comes in. I recognize that I am a rather high maintenance person. I recognize that I have sharp edges. I recognize that I am loud. Obnoxious. Outspoken. Controversial. I have standards that I am not about to compromise to stroke your ego. I swear too much. I’m bitchy often. And if you’re a dick I’ll let you know about it. Do I give a shit about making polite social situations awkward in the name of keeping the ignorant peace? Nope. Oh dear…
When I was dating my child’s father, my dad gave him some “advice” concerning me. He told my ex that to deal with me he would have to grow hair on his tongue. Well, the ex told me this and I thought it was very funny. In fact I was quite impressed that my father even knew me well enough to say that (not sure why since it only makes sense that as a parent he might have a relatively ok understanding of the weird creature he produced). My ex, however, was not amused. He was quite traumatised in fact. And this hair on his tongue thing came up in just about every fight we ever had. It freaked him out completely.
And the thing is: I think a lot of folks are like that. I think a lot of folks just can’t deal with people like me (and you and you and you) so they don’t. They can’t tell the difference between intense passion and anger. They can’t tell the difference between observation and accusation. They can’t tell the difference between being seen and being excused. Or frustration and being yelled at.
But my husband just deals. Always. And I can’t imagine that being married to me is too easy considering how the poor man never gets away with anything. He’s so good at being with me though. And I think that’s mostly because he already had all that hair on his tongue (or thought it worth it to grow some) but also because so often, despite our mutual inability to back down from anything, once the dust settles he does actually try to hear me. And as much as he tries to pretend that he thinks I’m some sort of bizarre enigma, and as much as he likes to look at me with a wtf expression from time to time (especially when everyone else is doing it) I think he does actually understand me quite a bit and he’s not afraid of that.
So thank you, husband. For not only being good at being married to me, but for being good at knowing me. Thank you for letting me be me and for accepting the beautiful mess that comes with that. Thank you for being the best damn male feminist that I know and for never ever expecting me to ever fill any sort of preconceived gender role. Thank you for being so damn kick ass that you take on a whole bunch of what others conceive to be “female” roles without ever complaining. That shit right there is sexy as fuck. Thank you for being supportive always. Thank you for trusting me with our children….so much so that you let me boss you around a LOT when it comes to them. These things that you do are not invisible to me. I promise. And I do not take them for granted.
It took me a really long time to read this book, because it killed me to go through it. I fell head over heels for Lev Grossman when I stumbled upon a tattered copy of The Magicians at a flea market. There is something about the way he writes that gets to me. He’s not particularly sophisticated or anything. Just kind of….ugh…real. This book? This book made me feel like I know the man too well. Like he’s a lover that I have become accustomed to. A lover who I see exceptionally well. Am I the only one who reads this way? It can be a little scary, truth be told. Not because I mind understanding others through their writing, so much as I am terrified that someone might come to understand me through my own. It’s so weird. It’s sort of like the person is told through the story, instead of the story through the person. I loved Codex and I loved The Magicians. But this book? I can’t quite put into words how I feel about this book. In fact I can’t even put it in to stars. Because sometimes it was five stars and sometimes it was one star. Why? Sometimes the misogyny showed so hard that I wanted to smack it away. Sometimes it was like Mr Grossman was mocking the story instead of telling it. And sometimes? Well sometimes, especially when he was telling Julia’s side of the story, there was this soft, beautiful understanding laced with so much incredible love that it was impossible not to be infected by all of it. Not only did I come to understand (and relate to!) Julia completely, but I also could not help but come to love her as she was handled and told with such affection that it was contagious. Maybe that is crazy. Maybe I “read” too much into things. But there is a very special presence in this book which I can’t deny. And that special presence made all the other foibles forgivable. Because that’s how we love, isn’t it? Completely. All inclusively. Warts and all.
I swear I’m not drunk but I’m sitting here tearful because I’ve inadvertently found myself thinking about the uselessness of heaven. In the book I’m reading, two of the characters have gone to the underworld to console a friend who needlessly died in battle. For some reason it has wrecked me. And not because of the storyline (though perhaps the scene has served as a reminder of a more traumatic event from the previous book) but because of the idea of afterlife in general. It’s so strange to think how the idea of heaven has been this consoling thought when it comes to how humans deal with, and even justify, death. We like to think of loved ones happy in heaven smiling down on us. It gives our hearts a rub and we feel better. That is, of course, if we even believe in heaven at all, which I admit has proven to be a little difficult for me of late. It has just now occurred to me that even in my wildest most fantastical of hopeful dreams, I cannot remotely comprehend any kind of “goodness” (in this instance: heaven) that would ever be able to erase the pure agony of being ripped from those I love. We are often so quick to observe that the pain of death lies not with the deceased, but with those whom the deceased has left behind. This thought serves us as consolation as well. But surely this particular idea can only be true if no afterlife exists at all. I can’t help but feel that if an afterlife exists that it might simlly be a place to store souls, because in life we tend to start gathering up souls with whom we cannot live without, and if we’re expected to die and then enter the afterlife without them, then by default heaven cannot exist at all. Only hell.
“So we dream on. Thus we invent our lives. We give ourselves a sainted mother, we make our father a hero; and someone’s older brother and someone’s older sister – they become our heroes too. We invent what we love and what we fear. There is always a brave lost brother – and a little lost sister, too. We dream on and on: the best hotel, the perfect family, the resort life. And our dreams escape us almost as vividly as we can imagine them… That’s what happens, like it or not. And because that’s what happens, this is what we need: we need a good, smart bear… Coach Bob knew it all along: you’ve got to get obsessed and stay obsessed. You have to keep passing the open windows.”
― John Irving, The Hotel New Hampshire