Archive for the ‘Friday Freewrite’ Category


Friday Freewrite: Childhood Favorites


Last month, just for fun, I found myself wandering the stacks in Barnes & Noble’s children’s section. I was rather confused; as a childless twenty-something I don’t usually look through that section so it took me a few minutes to figure out the filing system. There are tons of books for children at every reading level (even pre-readers) — books that teach, books that play, and the ubiquitous books you read just to read a book. A lot of the titles were unfamiliar, but I was pleased to see some of my own childhood favorites on the shelves.

Around the same time, I had a conversation with my friend Julia about Lois Lowry’s book The Giver.  What I didn’t realize when I first fell in love with The Giver is that Lowry actually wrote two more books to make it a trilogy. I read the second book, Gathering Blue, but it was long enough ago that I can’t remember if I read it because of its connection to the original story, or just because I enjoyed Lowry’s writing. Either way, I want to pick up Messenger (published in 2004) to complete the journey and tie the first two books together.

All of this musing on books I once read led to this week’s Friday Freewrite – a very short list of my favorite books while growing up, stories that still resonate with me (or live on in my memory as a great read). Add your favorites in the comments!

The Velveteen Rabbit – I loved the story of the well-loved stuffed animal who finally finds real life through real love from his boy. It still makes me sniffle a little…

The Giving Tree – Along the lines of loving and sacrificing, I never fully appreciated what the tree gave to the boy until I reread this book as an adult. To be fair, I don’t know that the boy ever appreciated what he was given either.

A Wrinkle in Time – Madeleine L’Engle is a literary genius, and I challenge anybody to say otherwise. I still have dreams of tesseracts and worlds in other dimensions. I read a few of the sequels as well, and I have no complaints about any of them.

Holes – This story of a young boy in a detention camp was made famous by the film version starring not-yet-famous Shia LeBoeuf. I enjoyed the combination of the detention camp drama woven in with stories from the past, and how Louis Sachar brilliantly connected the pieces to lead to a thoroughly satisfying resolution. Also, I sort of want some venomous nail polish.

There are many, many more books that I can think of, but if I listed them all this would begin to resemble a novel itself!

What are your favorite books from childhood?


Friday Freewrite: Monsters in Literature


Whew, sorry for the hiatus! Rest assured that I’ve been devouring book after book to deliver you some tasty reviews for your end-of-summer enjoyment. (And really, it’s already nearing the end of summer? Weird…)

One book in particular made me stop and recall an assignment I had in my English 1100 class at Lakeland (if you’re going there, take it with Dr. Soto-Schwartz — you will love her or hate her, but if you open your mind you will definitely learn something), about exploring the concept of the “monster” in literature. Certainly we encounter creatures universally recognized as monsters — Moby Dick, Voldemort and the dementors of Azkaban, the Big Bad Wolf — but what about the ones who look like us? After all, even Tom Riddle was an attractive and charismatic boy before the rending of his soul played out across his physique.

Those are the interesting monsters, seemingly normal human beings who carry dark and twisted secrets beneath the surface: fetishes of violent eroticism, control and slow, torturous destruction mark them as different, other. Some instinctively shy away from those stories, afraid to look below the surface…fear of the unknown, or even of seeing one’s own dark side mirrored in a fictional character who suddenly becomes all too real. Since our universe thrives on balance there are also those who find themselves drawn to those stories — those for whom a simple fairy tale is not enough, those who need to face the darkness with a clear and steady gaze, to deconstruct it and thereby understand it.

Alice Sebold, for one, is not shy about forcing the reader to confront the monster: in Lucky, her rapist; in The Lovely Bones, a seemingly harmless recluse who builds a trap to murder an unsuspecting girl; and in The Almost Moon, a daughter who kills her mother. (Note: I have only read The Lovely Bones and cannot critique the other two more fully in this respect; however, any basic synopsis of the two will support my assertion here.) Part of the draw of this type of story, unlike the crime drama that leads to the perpetrator’s apprehension, is that it scours the depths of the evil or deranged mind, insisting by its very existence that we not turn away from the uncomfortable or downright terrifying parts of literature…or of life.

I didn’t fully appreciate this assignment when I had to do it. We read stories like Joyce Carol Oates’ “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been”, and then we had to write a paper about a “monster” in a book or short story outside of the assigned reading. Of course I wrote the paper, but in my naive attempt to step back into the light I focused on my favorite Wicked Witch, Elphaba — not truly a monster, though she is believed to be by some. I wrote about how she was misunderstood, about the secret guilt she carried around with her and how she was not so much a “monster” as an example of “no good deed goes unpunished.” I think I was more prepared at 14 and 15 to confront the bogeyman than I was at 18.

Now, though, I’m read to step back into the darkness, to stare down the monsters and understand them, to accept them without trying to rehabilitate them. My latest read, Brandi Lynn Ryder’s debut novel In Malice, Quite Close, is another chilling masterpiece that puts the reader face-to-face with the deepest, darkest parts of the human soul. A review is pending for publication on Luxury Reading, after which of course I will share it with you, but for the first time in awhile I feel like a review may not be enough.

Because of that, I am going to rewrite my original college assignment; this time, though, I will take it seriously and I will not embark on a crusade to find redemption where there is none. This can technically be considered my introduction, and I am excited to share the finished product with you. In the meantime, just remember: the most disturbing monsters aren’t the ones we can imagine, but the ones who walk among us every day.


Friday Freewrite: Survival of the Book


I was mulling over ideas for a Friday Freewrite, and had almost given up the idea on the basis that freewriting anything while multitasking is sort of cheating when I stumbled on a HuffPo article posted yesterday. Johann Hari makes the claim that “In The Age of Distraction, We Need One Thing More Than Ever: Books” by highlighting the depth and timelessness of words committed to paper, far more substantial than the snippets of information and opinion we glean from social networking, sites like HuffPo itself, blogs like this one, and other sources of micro-publishing. Hari also admits being wooed by the thought of an eReader (his gadget of choice would be the Kindle), but contends that as the devices become multifunctional they move further away from being a suitable substitution for a hard copy book.

Quite honestly, I couldn’t agree more. I mean, let’s be clear: this blog is dedicated to writing and reading. And I absolutely love my Nook, but more recently it has spent more and more time sitting on the bedside table beneath whatever actual book I’m reading at the moment. A couple of times the device has completely powered down because I left it alone for so long. There’s just something about the ability to hold pages between my fingers as I turn them, to run my finger down the page as I search for my spot, to smell that new (or old) book smell… These are a few of my favorite things, things that I’ve taken for granted but would fight to the end to keep.

Besides, I can’t fathom a world in which there is absolutely no market for books. They are the economically frugal option; even if the digital version of a book costs half the price of a hard copy, that’s only after the initial investment of hundreds of dollars. There is still an entire generation of people alive for whom technological advances are confusing and not a little frightening (my 83-year-old grandmother still thinks of laptops as “magic boxes”), and it is unrealistic to expect them all to acclimate to a change of that enormity. And when they are gone, there will still be the bibliophiles: people like myself who feel most at peace when they are surrounded by the written word.

You see, the eternal beauty of books to me is not entirely bound in the reading of them. I find that simply walking into a room and seeing books lying on a table or neatly arranged on a shelf puts me in a better, more relaxed mood and gives any environment a more open and cultured feel. Maybe that just means I’m a book snob, but I feel how I feel.

As convenient as a digital reader can be, I worry that we’re conditioning ourselves to be constantly locked in to one screen or another — either we’re staring into a computer monitor, furiously scrolling on a smart phone or tablet, or navigating our favorite stories on a Nook. While the convenience of the latter cannot be overstated (over 5000 books at your fingertips with an 8GB microSD card installed!! No more bulky suitcases for “light” reading!), it would be a mistake to completely toss away “old” technology for the glitz and glitter of the new. After all…a book’s battery never needs recharging.