Stargirl

When I visit a used bookstore, I always go to the young adult section. Maybe I should be embarrassed because I am usually the only one over 14 and I’ve been known to leave with at least three books in my arms. But then I think– to hell with it. This section has been good to me over the years. I’ll never give it up.

Before I left the country, one of my latest ventures into adolescent literature brought me to the book, Stargirl.

She was illusive. She was today. She was tomorrow. She was the faintest scent of a cactus flower, the flitting shadow of an elf owl. We did not know what to make of her. In our minds we tried to pin her to a cork board like a butterfly, but the pin merely went through and away she flew.

I always heard it mentioned, but I had never brought myself around to actually reading it. I really needed to read it and I’m grateful that I did.

Recently, I’ve felt strangely self-aware–more so than usual. At first I thought it was because I was an aimless post-grad, unemployed and still adjusting to being stripped raw of my comfortable identity as a student. Then I thought it was because I was pointless and misplaced in my poorly scheduled corporate job. After that, I was certain that it was because I felt isolated and amazingly foreign in this bizarre new country.

But really, I think I just feel it when I’m by myself. All those situations give me far too much time to myself. It’s when I have the time to think. It just kind of rises to the surface once everything else is cleared away. When I’m focused or occupied, it shrinks back.

I don’t want to always have to be distracted to avoid being self-conscious. It’s not like there’s anything really wrong here. I guess it’s fine for the most part, but I’d like a little more stability in my own self-assurance.

I’d like to be like Stargirl Caraway. Or maybe I’d be okay with just being me, only with a little Stargirl swagger. She is who she is. She finds good in unfavorable circumstances and casts off the temptation to seek external acceptance. She embraces her own oddities and finds joy in her own flaws.

I want to stop questioning the things I do and the reasons I do them and the way it appears to others and what it says about me. I want to be strange and unapologetic. I want to be frighteningly confident. I want to let things go. I want to accept and move on. I want to be weird and uninhibited.

When I was reading this book, I just kept thinking– what a way to be.

Honestly, I don’t think anyone can be like that all the time. Even Stargirl had her moments of failing confidence. Everyone is self-involved and sensitive, even when they say they’re not. At least a little. So I guess I, too, am entitled to weak moments and wavering individualism every once in a while.

But even if that’s true and I’ll never fully get rid of this itching discomfort of the self, I guess unaffected self-assurance would still be something nice to work towards.

Resolution

Once, when I was seven or eight, my mother said to me, as we sat on the last seat but one on the bus to the clinic, or the shoe shop, that while it was true that books could change with the years just as much as people could, the difference was that whereas people would always drop you when they could no longer get any advantage or pleasure or interest or at least a good feeling from you, a book would never abandon you. Naturally you sometimes dropped them, maybe for several years, or even forever.

But they, even if you betrayed them, would never turn their backs on you: they would go on waiting for you silently and humbly on their shelf. They would wait for ten years. They wouldn’t complain. One night, when you suddenly needed a book, even at three in the morning, even if it was a book you had abandoned and erased from your heart for years and years, it would never disappoint you, it would come down from its shelf and keep you company in your moment of need. It would not try to get its own back or make excuses or ask itself if it was worth its while or if you deserved it or if you still suited each other, it would come at once as soon as you asked.

A book would never let you down.

— Amos Oz, A Tale of Love and Darkness

A reason to celebrate and another reason not to

Today I found my lost book! Just another up-side to cleaning my room. It’s a good thing I found it so soon because I hate leaving books unfinished, particularly when I’m enjoying them. I always feel guilty if I don’t.

I like my books very very much. I take good care of them– no bent corners, no stains, no ripped pages. I worry excessively when I lend them out, which is probably why I don’t make a habit of letting people borrow things. I guess I’m selfish that way. I just don’t trust other people to take care of my books unless I know they’re as careful and neurotic about their books as I am.

The worst part is when people borrow books and never return them. I hate that. I hate asking for a book back when the person hasn’t gotten to read it yet, but I hate the thought of never getting it back even more. But I’m no saint. I’ve done it a few times. I’ve checked out novels from the shelves of my middle school English classes and forgotten to check them back in. I’ve borrowed books that I ignored for years before actually reading. They’re on my shelf now. I always feel a little guilty knowing they’re not really mine. But I don’t have the chance (or the heart) to return them.

The Diary of a Disappointed Book from Studiocanoe on Vimeo.
Watch this video. It is wonderful.

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Norwegian Wood

I once had a girl or should I say she once had me.

 

I have been throwing around the idea of reading Haruki Murakami for a while now. I don’t know what held me back. Maybe it was because I didn’t want to be disappointed. I’ve heard a lot of talk about him and most of the books I’ve read based purely on anonymous forum chatter have never lived up to expectation.

But as the story goes, my internship boss gave me a gift card to an independent bookstore next door. I saw Norwegian Wood and decided to give it a chance.

The book was not at all what I thought it would be, but I think I mean that in a good way. The writing style was completely unexpected, simple and charmingly modern. This is how it’s described:

Toru, a quiet and preternaturally serious young college student in Tokyo, is devoted to Naoko, a beautiful and introspective young woman, but their mutual passion is marked by the tragic death of their best friend years before. Toru begins to adapt to campus life and the loneliness and isolation he faces there, but Naoko finds the pressures and responsibilities of life unbearable. As she retreats further into her own world, Toru finds himself reaching out to others and drawn to a fiercely independent and sexually liberated young woman.

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Second star to the right!

I am somewhat of a trickster when it comes to learning. I somehow manage to cling to the threads of my oddball childhood by passing them off as a part of higher education. Yesterday in COHI 123: Children & Media, we watched Sesame Street. A few weeks ago, we watched Disney’s Peter Pan, which despite its slight problems of racism, sexism, other-isms, will always be a classic in my book.

Before my stepfather went on a vindictive raid of my childhood memories and decided to sell nearly everything that has shaped who I am today, I had in my possession a massive collection of Disney movies. My sister and I would play and replay those VHS tapes until we had the dialogue memorized or until the cassette just broke from overuse. We popped them out of their sturdy plastic cases and listened patiently to the hum of the VCR as we waited for our movie of choice to rewind. And Peter Pan was always high up on the list.

Years later, I began to read J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan, a twinge of skepticism skipping around inside my head. Would it do the movie justice? Would it ruin the idea of Neverland I had imagined for myself, so many years before? W0uld I even like it? And I was older then, so I thought maybe I wouldn’t. But I swear, I loved it from its very first lines.

All children, except one, grow up. They soon know that they will grow up, and the way Wendy knew was this. One d ay when she was two years old she was playing in a garden, and she plucked another flower and ran with it to her mother. I suppose she must have looked rather delightful, for Mrs. Darling put her hand to her heart and cried, “Oh, why can’t you remain like this for ever!” This was all that passed between them on the subject, but henceforth Wendy knew that she must grow up. You always know after you are two. Two is the beginning of the end.

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The Book Thief

I had some spare time in the middle of my procrastination and I thought I would share the new book I am currently reading:

THE BOOK THIEF, by Markus Zusak

He was the crazy one who had painted himself black and defeated the world. She was the book thief without the words. Trust me, though, the words were on their way, and when they arrived, Liesel would hold them in her hands like the clouds, and she would wring them out like rain.

Why this book? Initially, it was the title that caught my eye. I love the word “thief.” There is a hint of adventure, intriguing and encapsulated in this one little word. Thief. And to be a thief of books! Well, that was even better!

The first time I saw this book was in a sales rack a few years ago. I seriously thought of buying it (and looking back, I really should have), but it seemed so thick–550 pages– and I was so poor. So I left it there, having no idea what I was leaving behind.

Fast-forward to the present. The Book Thief has gotten a lot attention since it was published in 2005, which is great considering all the other crap that gets published (and popular) for adolescents nowadays. It was one of the Children’s Best Sellers of 2009!

I was still skeptical about the length. Let’s not even mention the fact that it’s written by a modern author and, for the most part, those have failed to really really impress me. But I surrendered, once again, to the lure of all those outstanding reviews and shining literary awards. And I am so unbelievably glad I did because I am loving this book. Why? I shall try to make it brief.

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What to do with bad days

I come back from the dentist early this morning, exhausted and numb. I miss my class and a passing car sprays me with rain water. The stormy weather does not improve the circumstances, though it seems fitting for my mood.

I become old and bitter. My neck aches from years of bad posture and my body hangs like a heavy weight. My eyes are failing me and I am haunted by noticeable signs of hair loss. Somehow my weak legs carry me up the stairs. I immediately cast off my dripping boots, shuffle out of my coat, and change into perfectly dry pajamas. My homework calls to me; my obligations fight for attention. I turn away for the sake of sanity.

I sit in bed and read The Book Thief for the rest of the day.

Somehow I am a kid again, curing my sour disposition with literature. I love how bad days can become good.