Restless type. Mostly irony-free wingnut. Celebrator of trees. Stilt walker. Given to rare fits of poetry. Boot junkie and whiskey enthusiast. Blabbermouth with only a vague notion of TMI. Vermont secessionist expatriate. Moss sniffer. Stray cat petting machine. Alternative school graduate. Mountain admirer. Tattooed non-professional. Mild-mannered atheist and polite anarchist. Big city person with rural inclinations, or maybe it's the other way around.
My name is Nicole Cipri. I'm a writer and a wingnut, among other things. This is my tumblr, aka, a curated mess of memes and half-finished thoughts.
SO! I’ve been reading a lot, in a sort of attempt of escapism from my own brain. And I started using Goodreads, because it’s like Facebook for book nerds, and even though I kind of hate Facebook — I’m sorry, I get tired of looking at my grandmothers SHARE THIS RANDOM PHOTO IF YOU LOVE JESUS and my aunt’s LOL DRUNK COLLEGE STUDENTS photos — I like Goodreads.
Have a book review.
One Bloody Thing After Another by Joey Comeau
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
You ever have one of those weeks? The sort where nothing goes right, you keep screwing up and doing the wrong thing, saying the wrong thing, and you figure at some point you’ll get your act together, but the next thing you know, the bad week has turned into a bad month and then it’s the apocalypse. Whoops.
The horror in this novel is the hysterical sort, normal people reacting to outrageous things. One girl’s mother turns into a zombie, another dies of cancer, and both of these things are equally terrible.
Joey Comeau’s prose is smart and wry. It’s sparse in the way classic horror cinema is. Nothing jumps out and shouts BOO. As the title indicates, things just keep getting worse. It’s like life in that way, only with more kitten-eating monsters and headless ghosts.
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Let’s take a moment to talk about kids fiction, shall we?
Actually, let’s take a moment for some gratitude and celebration, because children’s fiction is fucking awesome. I say that without reservation, knowing that yes, there’s some crap out there; there’s crap that is boring, sexist, and ignorant. There’s an entire industry devoted to getting kids to spend their parents’ money on franchises and series and sidelines, and like all such industries, not everything that floats to the top is quality.
But you know what? If it gets kids reading, I’m all for it. The more kids read, the better they become at thinking critically about what they’re reading, and about other media that’s seeping into their brains.
Getting some kids to read is hard work. Their families may not place a lot of importance on literacy or intellectualism, they may have learning difficulties that make it less enjoyable, they may speak an entirely different language at home than at school, they may just not like (or be able) to sit still for long enough to actually get through a book.
All of which is pretty sad, because I truly believe that books can save lives. More than in any other genre of literature, children’s, intermediate, and young adult fiction can intervene in someone’s life, provide a haven, open their eyes, inspire them, make them feel as though they belong to something larger than themselves. It can provide a necessary escape from the stresses of growing up, or it can show them that they’re not alone.
Anytime I hear anyone pooh-pooh children’s literature, I want to throw down a gauntlet and challenge them to pistols at dawn. I want to show them myself at nine years old, escaping to the roof or to my mom’s car to read for hours at a time. As a kid, I needed that, something that would take me out of myself, my small town, the daily injustices that come with being an awkward, smartass kid, and the bigger issues and traumas I faced.
(There was actually a point in time where I didn’t read. I was twelve/thirteen years old and recently traumatized from a sexual assault. My grades at school took a nosedive, and never really recovered until I entered college. You know what I was doing instead? I was smoking pot, dropping acid, and taking pills. It sounds ridiculous, like a THIS IS YER BRAIN ON DRUGS ad, but hey, there it is. I don’t remember reading much at all during that period. Of course, my entire memory of that time in my life is faulty anyway, for the obvious reason of, y’know, drugs.)
I’m working on making a rec list, because I’m apparently the only person at my bookstore that unabashedly loves children’s literature. Like I said before, getting kids to read can be a job in itself, for the reasons listed above, and because kids can be finicky little shits.
Okay, one last (tangentially-related) thing: yesterday, a youngish girl (maybe 11?) came up to my boss.
Girl: Do you have All the Pretty Horses by Cormac McCarthy?
Boss: *side eye* Let me check.
Girl: I just read The Road and found it enthralling. I want to read his entire Border Series.
Boss, myself: *stare*
Guys, this girl could barely see over the counter. It was like having Roald Dahl’s Matilda in the store.
The first book I remember loving as an adolescent was The Girl Who Owned a City. In it, everyone over the age of twelve or thirteen has been killed in a mysterious plague, and children are left trying to keep themselves alive. A ten-year-old girl named Lisa becomes a de facto leader in her suburb, and eventually faces off with a bunch of thuggish gangs.
I loved it so much that I stole the only copy from my school’s library, and I wrote to Steven Spielberg and Martin Scorcesse, urging them to make a film version. (As I recall, I offered to write the screenplay for them, too. I was a ballsy ten year-old.)
I recently reread the book, and realized that it’s a weird defense of free-market capitalism and Objectivism. Which seems like an odd thing to juxtapose with THE END OF THE WORLD, but whatever, it was written in the 70’s. The important thing here is that it instilled in me a ridiculous love of the genre. (And of its cousin, dystopic fiction, which will get its own post.)
I will, at this point, pick up nearly any book that promises the destruction of human society on every level. The Stand by Stephen King, was another favorite book as an adolescent and teenager, and I can still enjoy it, unlike most of his other books. World War Z by Max Brooks stands as one of the most outstanding titles in the entire zombie apocalypse genre — and I include movies in that as well. Robopocalypse by Daniel Wilson, which was just released in paperback, is similar to World War Z in its scope and premise, and just as satisfying to read. (You really can’t go wrong with killer robots, transhumanism, and a diverse cast of characters.) For people with a bent towards more literary fiction, there’s Earth Abides, which was written in 1949. It’s kind of the godfather of the genre, and is just as much about the environmental changes that would result from a huge population loss as it is about the survivors.
And then there’s non-fiction: The World Without Us is an amazing look at the ecological impact of humanity’s sudden extinction, similar to Earth Abides, but without all the forays into rebuilding society. Because who cares about polyamory and cannibalism and the evolution of religion when you can learn about the rate of erosion in urban environments? AWESOME.
I’ll admit to not having read a few of the more famous post-apocalyptic books out there. Namely, The Road. I’ll get to it someday, when I’m reasonably sure that reading it won’t send me into a spiral of depression and despair.
I think all the things that I find compelling about the post-apocalyptic genre are going to have to go into another post. I was actually planning on writing an entire essay about the white middle class and its obsession with apocalyptic stories, so, uh, stay tuned? It’ll be along shortly.
Floating somewhere around the internet, there’s a “Blog 100 Things About Something or Other” challenge. A few of my peeps have signed up, but I wasn’t planning to. Because, like, 100 posts? That’s asking a lot from me. I’m a busy person. I have things to do. (Right now, I’m making soup and editing a short story and wondering if I threw away last Sunday’s crossword and skipping out on an actual obligation to one of my jobs. I am a champion multitasker.)
Then I realized: I can so easily write 100 things about books. I work in a bookstore, so a good 40 hours of my life every week are devoted to handling, wrapping, shipping, receiving, retrieving, and blathering about books. I have had so many conversations about The Hunger Games and Fifty Shades of Grey,you don’t even want to know. I have a lot of opinions about books.
So here is my first of a hundred things about books: Jorge Luis Borges writes the best opening lines.
I just started reading Borges. I found a used copy of his Collected Fictions at the store. I have read three stories so far. I slogged my way through “Tlön, Uqbar, and Orbis Tertius”, which, holy shit. That’ll get its own post at some day. On the train ride home, I read “Man in the Pink Corner”, and “The Cruel Redeemer Lazarus Morell.”
Here are the three opening lines for those three very different stories:
I owe the discovery of Uqbar to the conjunction of a mirror and an encyclopedia.
Imagine you bringing up Francisco Real that way, out of the clear blue sky, him dead and gone and all.
In 1517, Fray Bartolomé de las Casas, feeling great pity for the Indians who grew worn and lean in the drudging infernos of the Antillean gold mines, proposed to Emperor Charles V that Negroes be brought to the isles of the Carribean, so they might grow worn and lean in the drudging infernos of the Antillean gold mines.
I’m not going to dissect these opening lines, because I am out of college and pretty done with literary theory and criticism at this point in my life. I am just going to reiterate that every one of these lines melts my soul like a Nutella in a microwave.
I have also decided that when Borges talks about either the sky or a river, you shut your dirty mouth and listen.
The Mississippi is a broad-chested river, a dark and infinite brother of the Paraná, the Uruguay, the Amazon, and the Orinoco. It is a river of mulatto-hued water; more than four hundred million tons of mud, carried by that water, insult the Gulf of Mexico each year. All that venerable and ancient waste has created a delta where gigantic swamp cypresses grow from the slough of a continent in perpetual dissolution and where labyrinths of clay, dead fish, and swamp reeds push out the borders and extend the peace of their fetid empire.
Which, just, what do I even say to that?
“Perpetual dissolution”, oh my god. Take me now.
Okay, so now that I’ve squeed about Borges, anything else book-related you want to ask me about? Feel free to leave suggestions in my ask box.