Monday, May 10, 2010

In which the frog jumps out of the pot, or see you in September

I have been thinking about taking a sabbatical from my blog for a while now, and it seems I'm not the only one who is stepping back. Lady Glamis is closing down her blog, Innocent Flower, Miss Rumphius is stepping out for a little while, Lotus girl is going through a purge-a-palooza, and Corey at Thing 1 and Thing 2 has lost her mojo for her blog.

My reasons? Several. First, summer is a time to be with my children, to do spontaneous things like make crepes or go for a bike ride or hang out with the neighbors. It is a time when fresh vegetables and fruits abound, and this year especially, I am looking forward to making wonderful meals from the produce I will receive from a local farm through an CSA program. It is also a time when, if I don't pay attention to the backyard for a few days, it will be overrun by weeds and over-exuberant ground covers.

Here is another reason, one which I'm not even sure I can articulate properly. The best I can do is with the metaphor of the frog in the pot of boiling water.

In my version of the story, I somehow become aware of the water getting hotter than I can handle and I jump out (hopefully not into the fire, but that's another metaphor, isn't it?) before I boil into a lovely frog broth.

Let me explain. I love interacting
with writers and people who love the arts on blogosphere. I enjoy participating in different activities: commenting, following, joining Ning groups, entering contests. But without realizing it, I've gone too far.

It's not just that I am spending too much time or energy, it's also that I am doing some things I am not entirely sure about.(This is the part that may get me some flak, but I hope you understand I am describing my struggles, not passing judgment.)

Take contests, for instance. Most of them now offer a point system to reward readers for publicizing the event. This has made me wonder: is this for me? If something is done by the majority and I choose not to do it, does it mean I am intentionally leaving myself/my book behind? When will the saturation point hit, i.e. if and when I do decide to engage in publicity this way, how can I be sure that people will not have become sick of them/blase/overwhelmed by too many people doing the same thing?

I guess the underlying reason, for me at least, is that there is something about those actions that is one step removed from the real motivation--following or blogging because I want to qualify for a contest, or requiring people to follow to qualify for my contest--that makes me ever so slightly squirmy. Lots of things in life are done for extraneous reasons, I realize that. But I still wonder.

Other issues relate to how this blog fits into my writing life. I know many bloggers re-evaluate their decisions periodically and I'll be joining them. Thoughts and arguments will brew in my mind as I fly kites and weed and grill. When I see you again, I hope to have a clearer mind, whether or not I resolve all my questions. I already have an idea of what I can do about my blog when I return.

Hope you'll join me on my journey again. I may even throw in a couple of contests and devise a new point system.

Enjoy your summer, if you're in my hemisphere, or winter, or monsoon season, and see you in September. (Anyone else thinks of this song when they hear this phrase?)

Friday, May 7, 2010

Degrees of separation: Moore, DiCamillo, Adichie, Tropper

Recently I read four books that seem very different from one another, yet when I finished, I realize common themes thread through them.

er Moore's Lamb has a lot of the author's trademark: breezy dialogues, humor, humor, and yes, more humor, often of the crude sort. Even the subtitle tells you this book is likely to contain a good dose of irreverence: The Gospel according to Biff, Christ's Childhood Pal. Yet underneath all that sarcasm and sacrilegious poking-fun lurks an authentic truth-seeker. And if the book itself didn't make me think, the author's afterword certainly did. The voice and tone of those pages are so different, I would have sworn they belonged to somebody else . But they don't, and it was truly eye-opening for me to see how sincerity and cynicism, respect and reverence can marry.

The Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie has none of the light-heartedness of Lamb. It is a serious book on serious subjects, yet like Lamb, religion is on every page. As in Lamb, the readers are never told it's bad to do certain things in the name of religion, yet to see how the characters interpret their faith, we can't help but shudder, or at least reconsider our own beliefs and actions as a result of those beliefs.

I got the recommendation of Jonathan Tropper's This Is Where I Leave You from the same place, over at the DGLM blog, when Jim McCarthy recommended books to readers based on the last five books they read. And actually the book he recommended to me is Geek Love, but when I checked out the other recommendations, Adichie's and Tropper's stood out as ones I thought I would enjoy as well.

Religion sets up the backdrop for This is Where I Leave You. A family, who hasn't been very religious, has to sit shiva for a week when the father passed away. Like Lamb, Where I Leave You is filled with wicked wit and a (over)preponderance of sex. And like Purple Hibiscus, it explores dynamics among family members in an honest and raw manner.

Now, how on earth would I link these to Kate DiCamillo, you're thinking? Well, let me
try. The book I just finished is The Magician's Elephant. A book that is written in a dreamy, almost surreal manner, where strange people do inexplicable things and where the lives of most of the characters are filled with regrets and sorrow. A book that is about magic. A book that is for middle graders.

What is the one thing that strikes me the most in the book? Not the quirky characters, or the amazing writing. It's hope.

The main event in the story drops into the lives of many who are dejected, tired, and given up. Yet, as it unfolds, every one of them finds hope.

And it is also hope that ties all of these diverse books together for me.

There is hope for the truth-seeker. If you don't buy into organized religion, if you find some of the practice or actions taken by practitioners abhorrent, you don't have to lose hope in your search. You don't even have to give into cynicism. It's fine and good even, to question standard practices; it's essential that you don't allow the sense of right and wrong, good and bad within you to be tainted by what you think the oppressive religious lot are insisting. Truth is not the exclusive property of those who claim they have it. Truth can be sought and found.

There is hope for the one stuck with people they don't know what to do with. People can learn to understand one another, even when the ways are clumsy and stupid, even when most of us prefer to shift blame and hold grudges, even when we will make lots of mistakes. If there is a bond, if there is love, then we will find ways to exist together.

I am not sure why I am in the sort of mood. Or maybe I do. Maybe that's what happens when I open myself to words and ideas and emotions that authors have poured into their books.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Tricia made me do it

Write a haiku, that is.

Tricia is celebrating her one year anniversary
at Talespinning. If you have not visited, I hope you will. It is one of my favorite blogs. Not only does she write from her heart, she also has the most gorgeous photographs and touching haiku.

As part of her celebration, Tricia is holding a contest and asking her readers to write haikus. With spring in the air, along with the sense of renewal and quiet excitement, it was easy to find inspiration.

This picture is from
my backyard. When we bought the house, we were told the steep slope at the back required a retaining wall, but that seemed so cold and uninviting. Then we found out boulders could do the trick. And I am so glad. And so are our resident monkeys, who got their mountain-goat footing by climbing and jumping on these rocks since they were mere tots. (And in the process, training their mom to deal calmly with heart-attack moments.) Even in the winter time when all is gray and brown, the boulders provide their own brand of stoic beauty.

Right now, the petals from the flowering fruit trees are giving way to the vincas and phlox. Colors are beginning to dot my backyard again. And here is my humble tribute to it:

Petals in the breeze
Phlox brims over stoic rock
Spring and hope collide

Happy spring and renewed hopes to all!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Winner from the GALM retirement party

Thanks for attending my party! Sorry I didn't post this earlier; you know how it is after a party, there's all that cleaning up to do.

Anyway, I've decided to pool all the comments together and award a prize. Those of you who entered in multiple categories got multiple chances. Here's the winner:


Tricia, please send me your address at yatyeechong at g mail dot com and tell me which one of the three books you'd like.

And to all who participated, THANK YOU. I know I will continue to mull over some of the quotes and remember the books you've recommended. And I am so glad to hear some of you have allowed GALM to help you choose your books.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Retirement Party for Grab-A-Line Monday

Welcome to my party! Come in, come in! Enjoy some

Have a drink.

Grab something to eat, Remember, virtual foods pack zero calories or stuff that our bodies don't need, so go crazy with the tiramisu and the nutella crepes.

Thanks for dropping by the retirement party for Grab-A-Line-Monday, my weekly blog event that started with this post in September:

Quick, grab a book from your bookshelf and find a memorable sentence. Or if you have one that you carry around in your mind, even better. Here's one that struck me the first time I read it and continued to occupy my mind:

In case of an accident, anyone seeing her dead on the highway would know at once that she was a lady.

Flannery O'Connor
in A Good Man Is Hard To Find

If you've missed my multicolored, super-hyper announcement of a new feature on my blog, here is a recap:

Grab-A-Line Monday is the place to share sentences that stopped you in your tracks, or made you spew coffee or have stayed with you for years for other reasons. The moments when I read those sentences I count among the best in life. Since there are more books than any one of us can finish in a life time, I hope that this will become a place where we can share our treasures.

So I'd love it love it love it if you would grab a line and put it in the comments. And if it turns out you like the idea, please blog about it and share the word. Let's celebrate excellent writing and memorable moments!

Thank you so much to many of you who have come by and offered lines and passages that have caught you. Some of the quotes have so intrigued me that I have sought out out the books or short stories: Leviathan, Wee Free Men, Bernice Bobs Her Hair, The Adoration of Jenna Fox, just to name a few.

Other times, the quotes themselves have given me pause:

"What if man is not really a scoundrel, man in general, I mean, the whole race of mankind-then all the rest is prejudice, simply artificial terrors and there are no barriers and it's all as it should be."

- Fyodor Dostoevsky
(A question asked by Lady Glamis via Crime and Punishment)

or made me sad:
"She had nothing left to say, so she said she loved me. And I stood there grateful for the lie."
(A line from a song by Gin Blossoms brought to GALM by Solving Sherrie)

or made me chuckle:

"Kidnapping children is not a good idea. All the same, sometimes it has to be done."

(From Shelley the story queen.)

And then there was the fast bullock confusion. It started with an innocent quote Nandini offered:
"Greetings, Ancient Uncle," he panted, "you have a very fast bullock."

But for some reason, I misread it to say "fast buttocks". which disintegrated even further in the comments...

GALM has had a great run and again, thanks to all of you who have supported it.

Now, to the contest (I hope you got the BYOQ--bring your own quote--memo on the party invitation) Please leave me one or more in the following categories:

  • your favorite quote from previous GALM posts
  • books you've read because of the quotes you've found here
  • an all-time favorite quote
The contest will be open till midnight Mountain Time tonight. The categories that reach 10 comments will generate one of the following prizes, hard copies of:

How Fiction Works by James Wood
The Maze Runner by James Dashner
If I Stay
by Gayle Forman

Added later: forgot to re-iterate that I can only send prizes to addresses within the continental US.

Speech over. Let the party begin.