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Candyfreak: The Bad Influence of Steve Almond

Last weekend was the summer version of the semi-annual Harvard Bookstore Warehouse Sale. Mike, my boyfriend, had been asking me when it was happening, so when I got the email with the date, I knew Saturday was booked. The staff was friendly as usual, overly grateful for the crowd’s patience with their slow computer system. They passed out free water and bite sized candy bars. I chose a Snickers while I stood in line holding Steve Almond’s Candyfreak, which I’d found in the used section of the warehouse and thus paid 60% off the cover price for. Take that, Amazon.

Mike’s on summer vacation, and has been venturing further into the world of reading physical books rather than listening to audiobooks all the time. Our porch and the weather has thus far complied, letting us sit for hours in each other’s presence, racing the setting sun as we just finish one more chapter, only speaking to one another to share a funny-but-out-of-context-and-so-not-funny portion or ask what a word means. It’s my favorite kind of bonding, of the nerd variety.

We read on the porch Saturday night after the sale, and then again on Sunday. On Monday, I took the bus that runs in front of my apartment rather than walking the few blocks to the T, all so I could read more about small, independent, suffering candy companies across America, and hoping Steve Almond would drive by to see someone reading his book. I’m one of his fangirls.

I finished the book on Monday night, which means that in three days, I ingested more book-per-day than I had in a long time, and also more chocolate-covered almonds/pretzels than I meant to. If you don’t like chocolate, small companies, introspection, or Willy Wonka, this isn’t the book for you. This is like the book version of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, if, you know, there wasn’t already one. Here’s a grown man, known for his humor and deadpan manner, who becomes a groupie for candybars. And not your run-of-the-mill Snickers and Butterfinger variety. Almond (he points out the irony of his last name) goes on a pilgrimage to the remaining independent candy companies, and–get this–tries Peanut Chews, Goo Goo Clusters (I especially appreciated this southern shout-out), Twin Bings (ew) straight off the line!

But most of all, what Almond accomplished with this book, is to make me stop into more convenience stores, stare at their candybar selection disapprovingly, and walk out, leaving the person behind the counter wondering what I stole.

What are you doing on April 23?

Hopefully I’ll be giving away copies of Ann Patchett’s Bel Canto or Rebecca Skloot’s The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. (I heard an awesome Radiolab on that book, and it’s officially on my list!) I heard about World Book Night just in time to apply before the February 1st deadline. If I’m chosen to be a giver, I’ll be spending the night handing out free books in Inman Square pretending it’s my job. You think people will leave cookies out for me?

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Poets & Writers & Me

I’m convinced that Poets & Writers compiled their most recent Inspiration Issue just so I would renew my subscription. What else could explain the reason I am currently reading the magazine cover-to-cover, something I don’t think I’ve done with any other magazine subscription. At first, I thought that the magazine’s arrival was perfect timing for my impending travel to Georgia for the holidays. Then, on the plane, I realized that it was perfect timing as my last issue of my previous subscription.

Melissa Madenski’s Why We Write article reminds me that I’m lucky, as a writer, to benefit creatively from tragedy as much (usually more) than from happy times:

I don’t know what made me persist, what made me rise on icy mornings, shake myself awake and perch by the coffeemaker. When people said I was disciplined, I knew the truth. It would take more discipline to stop writing than to continue.

Then there’s Frank Bures’s “Inner Space: Clearing Some Room for Inspiration” with a take on technology’s infringement on the writer’s creative space that is not accusatory, but rather empathetic, gentle. With humor and just the right amount of personal anecdote, Bures presents a very real obstacle to the issue’s subject of inspiration without pointing fingers or damning Google.

I suppose I’ll get back to finishing the issue, and my internal struggle of to renew or not to renew.

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Back to regularly scheduled programming

Aaaand we’re back! After a week in Georgia with family, I came back to a snowstorm and a brand new job. The snow mostly affected Western and Central Massachusetts, so we were merely inconvenienced while walking to get our pizza, but some people have been without power this whole week, my boyfriend’s family included. It might have been a more productive week had we lost power, though, but instead I vegged out each night, watching scary movies and going to bed early. That all ends this weekend, when I plan to start Infinite Jest. I’m working on a review for The Last Werewolf, but until then I’m soaking up all kinds of technical books at my new job.

I can say that XML in a Nutshell by Elliotte Rusty Harold and W. Scott Means is understandable for a complete n00b like myself, and I felt prepared when I was being trained on how we use the XML program that we do. I’m currently working my way through Adobe InDesign CS2: One-on-One by Deke McClelland, but it’s helping me learn the program by actually using it, which is always the best way for me.

Anyway, I don’t want to completely bore you with all of the technical reading I’ve been doing. Is anyone participating in NaNoWriMo? One of the TNGG: Boston writers is covering it, and I’m excited to hear some of the interviews he gets.

Zone One: Expanding the ‘zombie canon’

I’ve been going off the literary deep end lately: Watching The Walking Dead, reading a book about werewolves, even playing Left4Dead on my boyfriend’s Xbox (when he’s not there). Maybe it’s the current cultural climate, the feeling that anything in government goes, that despite what we’ve always been led to believe, there, in fact, are no rules. The world’s threshold of possibility is suddenly limitless, to a terrifying degree. That’s my explanation, at least, for this seeming resurgence of zombie culture fixation.

This is all to say that I am very, very excited for Colson Whitehead’s Zone One, out last week. I’ve requested it from the library, and I’m devouring (like the brains of the living) (sorry) interviews and reviews of it. So if you’re at all interested, I’ve compiled some of my favorites.

Colson Whitehead on Zombies, ‘Zone One,’ and His Love of the VCR, The Atlantic

The living dead take Manhattan in ‘Zone One’, Seattle Times

‘Zone One’: What Happens When Zombies Take NYC, NPR Books

The Thinking Man’s Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse, WSJ Speakeasy Books

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This is the end.

Today’s my last day at my job! It feels like the last day of school — all giddyness and no responsibility. I’m getting a little work done, then hoping to be able to slip out before 5 o’clock, but we’ll see. Rumor has it that they take your computer and make you wait it out. I brought reinforcement, so don’t worry.

I finished The Last Werewolf yesterday on the train, and it was a magnificent read. Excited to gather my thoughts and get a review up. I’m diving into David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest today, so hopefully I’ll still be breathing come tomorrow. I’ll be without a computer for about a week or until I bite the bullet and buy one, so things may get a little quiet around here. I’ll be back as soon as I can, hopefully with a review!

For the love of words.

Why am I here? In the past couple of years, with my ups and downs in this whole book blogging thing, I’ve wondered that, and I always come back to this: How can I not do this? This recording of reactions and critiques and rate-of-universe-shatter is the second half of the equation. Like people who press themselves on our hearts, a book that changes something in us cannot be returned to the library or donated to Goodwill. That book that burrows itself down into the nails and underneath the eyelids demands to be reconciled with everything else we know about ourselves.  I read for forgiveness, for understanding myself and others, for seeing behind the curtain, that fourth wall afforded us by houses, cars, headphones. It is my way of meeting the 100 people I might never have met.

So I have a soft spot for book lovers, for my company lying prostrate at the altar of language. One of my favorite bloggers has written her very own ode to words, and because I fear I can’t say it any better than this, I will just pass it on.

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Happy Friday!

I know it’s Thursday, but today I head off to New Orleans to visit an old friend. I have half a mind to pause in the middle of The Leftovers and read A Confederacy of Dunces while I’m down there. I bought a brand new journal today, and I’m ready to travel. I’m ready to read in a whole new city, smell a new used bookstore, and make up stories about people with southern drawls (again).

It’s always four hour plane rides that make me wish I had more patience for audio books, but alas a hard cover will have to suffice until that unforeseen future. Happy reading!

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And it’ll be a while.

I’ve been a little absent as of late because I’ve been blogging elsewhere. I know, I should’ve made sure you were sitting down. I’m honing my focus and figuring out exactly what and where I want to be doing things, so thanks for the patience. I am seriously considering moving (again), and incorporating my love of writing and reading into my more general blog. Today I wrote about how to tell if you’re a real writer, so if you’re at all interested, head on over. Until then, ponder the SNL reference in my title.

An update.

I am currently reading (and loving) Jean Thompson’s new The Year We Left Home from Simon & Schuster. I’d never read anything from her before. I saw it standing on the New Books stand at the Cambridge Public Library, and the first few lines grabbed me. Review coming soon!

Second, I have some good news. A bit of flash fiction I wrote a while back has been published in the online literary magazine, fwriction:review. I can’t thank Danny Goodman enough for nudging me a bit about submitting and for supporting and encouraging me. And what an honor to be amongst Roxane Gay, Paul Lisicky, Julie Innis, Meg Pokrass, Susan Tepper, and really all the amazing writers he’s managed to snag. So head on over and check it out.

What have you been up to lately?

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