Mary

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“Are you really bringing Mary to Athens?”

My sister responds with a picture message of her cat sitting on the floor of her car.

She tells me she couldn’t leave her at our dad’s house, which I understand. It is far better for Mary to be an inconvenience than ignored.

Three hours later, Lea is in my apartment and Mary is settled. She scurries around the vicinity, taking in flashes of her new surroundings. It doesn’t take long for her to become comfortable, and she darts into my room for a more thorough exploration.

But Claire sees her, and naturally, Mary has to approach any new being she encounters.

“Oh no. Why is there a cat in here?”

Minutes later, Lea spies Mary in Claire’s arms.

Lea thinks that Mary was born erratic. Claire told me that since she’s technically still a kitten, she’s still in the phase where she wants to play with everything – and for her, playing is clawing and biting whatever comes her way. I say she experienced a somewhat terrifying event as a baby. Why else would she always be on the defense? Whatever the back-story may be, one cannot deny that there is something about Mary – it’s just hard to determine whether this something is a good thing.

Despite the threat of attack that still exists after her recent declawing, you want to touch her more than anything.
You want to cuddle with her and hold her like a baby. You want to scratch her chin and feel her fur that’s so soft you swear there’s a rabbit gene somewhere in her chemistry. Getting to feel her fur for a number of seconds is worth whatever scratches and bite marks she inflicts on you – yes, she’s that fluffy. She’s so fluffy that she feels luxurious, and it doesn’t even have to make sense.

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She’s so fluffy that she looks fat – she’s actually very skinny, though, which was proved the time she decided to jump into the bathtub with my sister.

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She holds a fascination with anything that is bathtub. If you shut her in the bathroom, the first thing Mary does is run to the ledge of the tub and hide between the shower curtain and its plastic liner. Always. She does it when I shut her in my bathroom before we leave. It is out of respect and precaution.
I have already been blamed for Mary’s great escape in December. I am not about to put up with this demented animal’s antics again.

She darts.

She invades spaces and claims new territories – atop a desk or buried away in a closet.

Earlier today I spied her trying to climb my coat.

She has taken a peculiar liking to a large Ziploc bag back home, and likes to lie inside it, face out, like she’s inside a transparent sleeping bag. She’s staring at my sister in the photo. She always stares.
I still don’t understand how a creature without thumbs can warp this way.

But then again, I don’t really understand much about her.

Late last night, I awoke to find her nestled beside my legs. She looked straight at me, her eyes yellow and wide like twin full moons.
She didn’t race up to swat my face or pounce on my thigh when I turned. She just sat there and stared at me. She might have even been purring.
Mary and I had officially formed a bond.

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The Freeman’s Journal

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This is for all the Ulysses nerds out there.

  1. I made this. I wrote all the stories, compiled all the images, and conducted the layout all by myself without breaking a computer or anything.
  2. This was my final.
  3. I am proud of it.

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My Top 10 Literary Influences

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I promised I’d make things up to you, and I think this list might just do the trick. Also I have a terrible habit of coming up with great things to write about right before something (or in this case, lots of things) is (or in this case, are) due.
But I am a huge literature nerd, so I think this is appropriate. I rave about books all the time anyway, so I think I should share the pieces of literature that influenced me the most.


10. The Inferno, by Dante Alighieri

I skimmed through The Inferno in high school (I was a senior. Can you blame me?), but put in a much greater effort when it was assigned in my super-hard-and-intimidating-mythology-class-that-a-valedictorian-from-my-high-school-was-in. It paid off. If I hadn’t thoroughly read The Inferno, I might have not decided to emphasize my English major in radical religious literature.

This book also influenced me because Dante had nerve. Even though his majorly unrequited crush on Beatrice was unrequited and kind of creepy, Dante was gutsy as hell (ha!), and I really admire that. It takes a lot to criticize your own religion.

9. The Natural Order of Things, by Antonio Lobo Antunes

If you know me in real life and have ever heard me rave about Portugal, this book is why (this book is Portuguese). I’ve developed a bit of an obsession with Portugal, and I’m really hoping to go there in the near future.

This book isn’t exactly famous (at least not here), so I guess I should explain it a little. From what I remember, the story spans over several decades and has about eight narrators. It’s also one of the only postmodern books I actually like.

You should read this book – I’m not very fond of the ending, but this is one of the best books I’ve ever read. Top five, definitely. It’s brilliant. Look at it, at least.

8. Ulysses, by James Joyce

This book was… an experience. I hate it and love it at the same time – it’s brilliant, but it’s just not fun to read. If you know me, then you’ve probably suffered at least 10 doses of my complaining about it. I once had a teacher who said Ulysses is a book that nobody should have to read for the first time. Now I can say that I agree with him on the whole concept of losing my Ulysses virginity. But it would be wrong of me to say it isn’t incredible. I’ll read it again later in life. I don’t think I was developed enough this go around. Joyce put an incredible amount of thought into Ulysses – nearly every word is an allusion. I hope I can have a pinch’s worth of that talent one day.

7. Cathedral, by Raymond Carver
This isn’t my absolute favorite Carver story – “What We Talk About When We Talk About Love” has that spot – it was a close race, though), but it is the very first one I read. There are some works that just strike you and have so much power. For me, Cathedral is one of those pieces. Carver’s realism is just so good – if I didn’t enjoy it so much, I wouldn’t have purchased a complete anthology of his work which happens to be over 1,000 pages. Yeah… I kind of have a long way to go with that one. But I love his work! I actually tried to be Carveresque with the last short story I wrote, and it actually happens to be my best. Thanks for inspiring me, Ray.

6. The Oven Bird, by Robert Frost

I have a huge fascination with the Fall. *See numbers 5, 2, and 1 for further explanation* But this poem actually influenced me in another way too. On the day I toured UGA, I sat in on an English class that happened to be taught by my current poetry teacher (I did this on purpose). Want to take a stab at the poem we learned about that day? Yes, that’s right, The Oven Bird. I think I’ve mentioned this before, but that poem is part of the reason why I took the Milton class and most of the reason I am in the poetry class I’m taking. Robert and Susan shaped my life, guys.

And that is why I am going to be my poetry teacher when I grow up.

5. East of Eden, by John Steinbeck

When I was 16, I went to Iran to the first, and as of now, only time. I found this book on my mother’s shelf and brought it to read on the plane. I had read and loved Steinbeck before (The Grapes of Wrath actually almost made this list), so I thought it would be a good choice. I was actually thrilled to find this, even though it’s a giant book. I ended up depending on this book while I was on vacation because I was parched for contact with the English language. I read it feverishly.
And oh, how I loved this book. It got me into the Fall before I even realized it!

It’s kind of funny how my taste in literature has worked out.

4. Howl, by Allen Ginsberg

I can’t think of a writer more irate and pissed than Ginsberg was, and I love him for it. Now obviously, I love this poem. I’ve seen the movie, and I’m a little obsessed with it. I listen to Ginsberg on Spotify. I have a book of essays on the poem, for god’s sake. I would have written a huge essay on Howl, but we didn’t even cover it this semester. I’m actually really upset about it. I hope that one day when I’m really pissed, I’ll remember to think like Ginsberg and just spin a beautiful web of poetry out of my anger.

3. It’s Kind of a Funny Story, by Ned Vizzini

I was in a pretty dark place when I stumbled upon this book – and the cover art is what caught my attention, so that’s why I hate the phrase “never judge a book by it’s cover.” Covers are meant to attract readers! That’s how it works!
You probably think I’m lame since there’s a movie of this book, and it’s pretty cheesy. Well I read this book years before news of a movie reached me (I’m so goddamn indie, I know).
The reason I like It’s Kind of a Funny Story so much is because I relate to Craig so much – not just because of depression, but also because of the crazy expectations he puts on himself and his masochistic thought process. And once I realized that Craig could become better, I decided that I could overcome my mental instability too.

2. Paradise Lost, by John Milton

I think I’ve made it pretty clear that Milton is my homeboy. A semester ago, all I blogged about was this poem. I have a fish named Lycidas. I’m referencing Paradise Lost in a paper that’s due next Tuesday.
But I really do love Paradise Lost. Once you read it, everything changes. I can see a Miltonian interpretation of almost everything I read because of it. Ulysses, Portrait of the Artist, the huge amount of poems I’ve had to read this semester, you name it. Oh, and Paradise Lost solidified my decision to emphasize in religious literature, so there’s that too. And it’s beautiful. Don’t forget that.

My nerd is coming out. Sorry, guys.


1. His Dark Materials, by Philip Pullman

These books, guys. Yes, my top choice is a trilogy. I can explain.
Three years ago, when I was taking adolescent literature at Harvard nerd camp, I had no idea how much these books were going to shape me. I came to these books much later than I should have – by this I mean “I saw the Golden Compass movie months before I ever read the book.” And I didn’t think the film was that great, because I don’t think anybody did, but I really loved the story. I’d still watch the movie today even though it’s disappointing, out of order, and inaccurate just because I’m such a huge Philip Pullman nerd.
These books have shaped me tremendously. They have made me laugh, fawn, smile, throw The Subtle Knife at a wall, and shed some of my hardest tears. Although I didn’t know it until a few years later, they sparked my interest that turned into my major concentration. In the years since I read them, I’ve made efforts to get other people to read them in the hopes that they would be as struck as I was. I got The Golden Compass on a class curriculum in my very Catholic high school. I lent copies of the trilogy to friends – and sadly, lost a book or two in the process. I took that Milton class just so I could understand the books better. I even read these books and Paradise Lost at the same time. I think it’s safe to say that these books influenced me more than any other pieces of literature.

Victory!

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Last night I turned in early yet again because all I could think about was how exhausted I was and revising something that I’m writing. Determined to top four and a half hours of sleep, I popped a whole sleeping pill in my mouth, grimaced because it started dissolving before I had swallowed it, and plopped into my bed.
When I awoke, my first thought was, “fuck, it’s 4:30 and I’m awake.” My alarm went off five seconds later.
Realizing that I actually had gotten a full night’s sleep for the first time in a week gave me an added surge in my energy. The window didn’t feel too chilly, so I could wear a tank top, I hadn’t lost any sleep, and I was about to drink some tea and enjoy my breakfast. You know how I love my breakfast. I wouldn’t even need a cup of that wretched coffee!
Since I wasn’t a zombie, class went better than usual. I aced my Daisy Miller quiz, and even though I fully expected it since I’ve read the story before, I still felt a brightness as I looked at the 20 with the smiley face in the 0 scribbled on the top of my page.
Evelyn said she would go to the lake with me tomorrow. I haven’t done much with any locals aside from talking to creepy older men in bars and impressing our housekeeper and Joyce, so I really want to go. We can talk about things I actually care about: food; literature; places; our families. And why shouldn’t I befriend a local?  We have common interests, and I haven’t really been able to bond extensively with many people here. Well, girls at least. It’s so much easier for me to talk to guys here. They like food, and good food at that, and they don’t give a fuck about counting calories. I should probably hang out with more guys.
After my class ended, I walked around the city for a while. Aside from a store where I could buy tweezers and a gelato stand, I had no destination in particular, and that was really nice. I haven’t managed to find a portable keg like the one I saw somebody wearing the other day, but I did see a Mozart shot glass, and that amused the hell out of me. I want to say I walked past a few useful places too – a bike shop, a Thai restaurant, places that sell sunglasses. Even going out was okay, because the dollar drinks for today actually tasted good and I befriended some guys who really like food. Maybe I’ll go eat with them one day or something, because they are the only other people I’ve encountered who are as excited as I am about a Thai restaurant being here. And I ate a grilled cheese sandwich.
All that’s really been on my brain is editing and producing. I really want this story I’m working on to be good. I mean, it is good, but I really want to make it the best it can be. I’ve been rereading it relentlessly – learning about Hemingway’s revising techniques is getting to my head.  At the same time, I’m really excited because I’ve never thought about writing so much. Sometimes all I want to do here is separate myself from everybody else and expand my ideas, edit my story, and churn out some reflections to post on here. Sorry if this post didn’t really have a point. I’m just in a great mood. I’m finally starting to feel like an active writer.
If I go to the lake with Evelyn tomorrow I’ll put some pictures up. I don’t really feel like the pictures I’ve taken so far are very blog-worthy.
And for now? A shower, a little The Sun Also Rises, and ideally, some more writing and editing.

I Bought Another Book

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Do you ever walk into a bookstore or library and become overwhelmed with excitement from being surrounded by so many books? I do.
It’s a serious problem. I find it incredibly hard to walk into a bookstore without leaving empty-handed. I’ve accumulated a huge amount of books this way, and it’s a little dangerous because as an English major (and a double major at that), I don’t really have time to read them. If I don’t buy anything, it’s because I sat on a couch or on the floor for around an hour reading magazines. Basically I can’t go in a bookstore without at least touching some form of reading material. I’m just as bad in the library, where I might leave with a slightly heavier backpack because I got distracted by a book while I was supposed to be printing something for free or buying a snack.
Most of my literary purchases or rentals have come from distractions. Maybe serendipity is a better word here. I cut through the UGA bookstore all the time because it’s the best way to avoid crazy preachers or slips of paper from clubs or fraternities I’m not interested in joining. During my evasive trip through the bookstore, I’ll come across a table dedicated to women writers or National Poetry Month, an author I can’t ignore, a Hunger Games parody, or a book with a bright, appealing cover that screams, “notice me!”
Enter The Flame Alphabet.

Come on, look at the picture of the book’s cover I’ve provided. What strong graphics this cover has! (Don’t look down on me for judging books by their covers, guys. Covers have introduced me to great stories – you just have to make sure you look at the synopsis after you’re completely mesmerized by the cover, you know? There’s a reason books even have designs on their covers, so don’t bash my practice.)
The Flame Alphabet burned for my attention (I know, terrible pun, it’s another one of my specialties) for weeks. Because the book has such a vibrant and visually striking cover (I think the design is cool, okay?), it caught my attention several times. However, I was usually in a rush or set on catching up with all the magazines I enjoy reading, so I didn’t actually pick up the copy of The Flame Alphabet that distracted me every time I walked into the bookstore until a few weeks after I first spied it. The cover had done its job. I turned the book around, read the synopsis, and thought, “damn that sounds good.” A day later, I impulsively charged into the store and bought the book. We hit it off instantly.

I’m only about 30 pages in, so my review could be horribly wrong, but I really like the book so far. (The reviews I’ve glanced over online – I don’t really want my experience reading this to be spoiled by reading a review that reveals the whole story, you know? – are mixed.) As of where I am, I like Marcus’ prose, and I find the conflict really interesting. In fact, the other day when I walked into the bookstore to grab a snack (the bookstore is a source of meals as well as entertainment for me), I saw a copy of The Flame Alphabet sitting on a plastic ledge with a sign that read, “best original plot.”
I don’t necessarily have time to finish The Flame Alphabet at the moment, or at least make finishing it my top priority because I’ve got finals coming up and I have some huge projects due this week. I’m also trying to read it in moderation because I don’t want to leave the book right after I start it and leave the story behind (yeah… does anybody else do that? I’m a nerd, I know.)

Hopefully my excuses for not finishing this book yet are at least slightly working. Come May 7th, I’ll have plenty of time to work on The Flame Alphabet and the pile of impulsive bookstore purchases that’s accumulated on my bookshelf.