Friday, November 30, 2012

I'm a NaNoWriMo Winner!

At the beginning of November I decided to write a novel.  I did it in connection with National Novel Writing Month where thousands (maybe millions) of people aimed to write at least 50,000 words in thirty days.  I wrote 673 words the first day then, well I didn't exactly forget about it, I just got busy.  The NaNoWriMo website has this nifty little statistics widget that tells novel writers how many total words they've written so far, number of words written that day, daily average of words written, how many words are left till the 50,000 goal is reached, and the the predicted time a writer will finish if he or she continues writing at the then current average.  other information.  On day four I logged in to the the website and found that I was far behind.  With a measly 673 words written, according to the numbers I wouldn't finish until mid-January!  From that day forward I made myself sit down and write everyday.  It wasn't easy.  There were many nights spent writing to midnight trying to meet my word count for the day. Eventually, on November 27th, I finished, coming in at 50,457!

Now, whether what I wrote is any good, whether it will ever see the light of day - that I don't know.  November was for writing, next month will be the beginning of the editing.  No matter how it turns out I'm glad I wrote it.  I have always wanted to write.  I've always thought there was a story or two inside me.  Many times I started to write, opened to a new page in a notebook to jot down my ideas, a new Microsoft document, but then I would I always get distracted.  National Novel Writing Month provided the necessary motivation.  So thank you National Novel Writing Month, thank you.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

The Silver Linings Playbook by Matthew Quick

The Silver Linings Playbook (movie tie-in edition)

I picked up The Silver Linings Playbook because (1) there is a moving version of the book coming out (or maybe it is out now) staring Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence, two actors whose work I enjoy and (2) someone on Goodreads described it as "the adult Perks of Being a Wallflower," a book that I love.  The story begins with Pat's mother picking him up for the neural mental health facility where's he been staying for awhile.  Pat thinks he was in the "bad place" for about year when actually much more time has passed and a lot has happened while Pat was his way.  When he comes out of the facility, he is surprisingly upbeat.  That's because Pat believes in silver linings and happy endings and that if he works hard to improve himself then "apart time" with his estranged wife will end and they will be reunited and live happily ever after.  He fully commits to achieving his goal, working out for hours at a time and practising being kind rather than being right. 

One of things I liked about this story is that it doesn't take place in a vacuum.  After leaving the institution Pat moves in with his parents where he gets a front row seat to his parents crumbling marriage.  He has to deal with a father who barely talks to him.  His friends and his brother have all progressed in their lives, causing Pat to wonder about all the things he missed while institutionalized.  And then there's Tiffany, Pat's best friend's sister-in-law.  Tiffany has some mental issues of her own to deal with.  Perhaps more than anyone she understands what it is to lose one's mind.

Another interesting aspect of the story is how it uses physicality and movement to represent emotion, healing, and a person's mental status.   For instance, in effort to make himself more attractive to his estranged wife Pat works out for several hours a day, running ten miles at a time and doing so many sit ups my abs hurt reading about it.  In other areas of his life he struggles, but the exercise routine seems to be the one thing he can control so he clings to it.  Tiffany, a modern dancer, choreographs a dance routine to demonstrate how she has danced away her depression.  (I'm really looking forward to seeing this dance routine in the movie, in the book it sounded awesome!)

Pat not only tries to improve himself physically.  In his attempt to become a better person he also decides to read some of the classics his estranged wife, an English teacher, always talked about.  Pat's reactions to books like Sylvia Plath's The Bell Jar and J.D. Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye are priceless.  Let's just say he is appalled at the many unhappy endings he comes across.

While I'm not sure I would call this the adults Perks I did very much enjoy this book.  It isn't a happy book, being that it deals with depression, fragile mental health and other serious issues, but it is funny in that way that real life can be funny and tragic at the same time.  Pat is sincere, though not always a reliable narrator.  I couldn't help but root for him.  I hope the movie does a good job bringing this story to the screen.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns) by Mindy Kaling

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns)

I never heard of Mindy Kaling before this fall.  I know she's on The Office but I have yet to see a full episode.  In my defense I have seen the original (that is, the British) Office.  Yes I know the American version is supposed to be a great show.  It will probably end up in my Netflix queue one day, but for now there's The Mindy Project.  After seeing the first episode and loving it I ran out and bought her book.  It's part memoir and part a series of lists, and overall a good read.  It did a get a little slow in the middle, but picked up toward the end.  If you need a quick laugh, this might be just what you're looking for.

Monday, November 12, 2012

National Novel Writing Month

Generic 180x180

I haven't been able to read as much this month because I'm participating in National Novel Writing Month.  Thousands of people around the world have signed up to write at least 50,000 words in 30 days.  As I participate in this I have gained an even greater appreciation for writers.  It's hard work.  Participating in National Novel Writing makes it a little easier.  Knowing that so many people are writing at the same time creates a sense of community.  It is encouraging.  Having a deadline helps to.  So far it has been a lot of fun.  I'm about 20,000 words in and have a ways to go.  Wish me luck!

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy by John Le Carré

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy (Kindle Edition)

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy is the original spy thriller.  I have to admit that I saw the movie first and I'm glad I did.  The story was confusing at times and being able to picture the actors playing the characters helped.  Aside from the confusion, I did enjoy the writing in Tinker Tailor.  It is very subtle.  This is a spy thriller but the action is muted.  There is also the language.  If my understanding is correct Le Carré invented the language of the modern spy thriller. 

The plot is simple but the story is complicated.  Almost retired George Smiley is called back into action to hunt for a mole.  There is a suspicion that the Soviets have a mole that has made it up into the upper echelons of British intelligence.  Arguably what happens isn't so much important as the characters.  It takes a certain kind of personality to not only survive but thrive in the secretive world of intelligence where everyone is lying or least keeping secrets.  Le Carré creates a cast of interesting characters that aren't what I expected.  There is no super spy.  If you're expecting the likes of James Bond, look elsewhere.  There are no flashy cars and very little gun play.  George Smiley is the exact opposite of James Bond.  In fact ordinariness seems to be the key to being a successful spy and maintaining a spy network. 

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy is the first in a trilogy.  I'm not sure if I'll read the rest of trilogy but I'm glad I read this.  At the very least I got to a read a classic.