This month’s nonfiction read is a fascinating account of going undercover in the secretive and oppressive dictatorship of North Korea. Suki Kim is a Korean-American journalist who infiltrated a North Korean university as a teacher, during the reign of Kim Jong-il in 2011. Here is some info I found the most interesting in her book:
I don’t like the term “Strong Female Character.”
That does not mean I prefer weak female characters. This is not a black and white world in which you either swing swords with swagger or cower in a corner. There’s a vast spectrum in between.
The reason I can’t stand the term “strong female characters” is because women described that way are usually one-dimensional, monotone cutouts of what the writer thinks a strong woman is. Often she’s a woman who can shoot a gun or throw a punch, and that’s enough. She never cries or feels uncertain or has any internal struggle whatsoever, unless of course it’s just for a minute to get the plot going and then she knows exactly how to deal with it. (Probably by shooting a gun.)
Reading, right? It’s crazy!! The psychic delivery of entire worlds from one head to another, via squiggly little marks? Ri-donk-ulous. Since most of you visiting this blog are writers, and thus readers as well, I decided to make this month’s nonfiction book about something we all relate to.
Ironically, I listened to this on audiobook instead of reading it, because sometimes I like to break the rules. Excuse me while I don some cool sunglasses and jump into a moving helicopter.
… I’m back. Anyway, I’ll be citing the following tidbits with time-markers instead of pages. Alright, let’s read about reading!
Several months ago I broached the topic of OCD with a nonfiction read about hoarding. Because OCD is such a personal subject to me, I decided to devote this month’s nonfiction more fully to the illness with a read of David Adam’s “The Man Who Couldn’t Stop: OCD and the True Story of a Life Lost in Thought.”
For the average, non-ill person, it’s normal to obsess now and then. It’s normal to have a senseless fear (clown in the closet?), a sudden and unsettling urge that does not fit with who we are (swerve into traffic, perhaps?) or a good-luck practice not founded on reality (certainly no one believes that knocking on wood actually works, but… just in case.) It’s normal to be picky about your books lining up straight or to lose sleep one night as a worry goes round and round in your head like a circling predator. This is not OCD.
There are few things more grating to me than the insta-love trope seen so often in fiction. This device essentially involves shoving two characters in the same room, then poking them with a stick until they have nowhere else to go but each other’s arms.
The development of their relationship usually looks like this:
It’s been a year since Slink Chunk Press published this short story, so to honor the occasion I am reprinting it here. Enjoy!
They say that everything is made from everything. Matter never disappears, it just becomes new matter. A cell from your skin catches a southeast breeze and eventually gets inhaled by a penguin; an atom expelled in some dinosaur dung finds its way over the eons to your pomegranate tea; a molecule from the sweat that glistened on Caesar’s temple evaporated and is now raining into your car through the window you left open.
We’re all just cosmos junk, recycled. Never ending, only changing. Ever since the universe’s first big sneeze, all that energy has been riding its waves wherever it can go, moving from one place to another. Perpetual tourists, all of us.
So then what happens if a bit of energy changes its mind? Has a change of heart on the metaphysical interstate and decides to detour over the center divider, head the opposite way?
Decides to come back?
A full year ago today, I was honored to have this flash fiction published by Gingerbread House Literary Magazine. This is my personal favorite of my work, so to celebrate its anniversary I am reprinting it here. I hope you enjoy! 🙂
Rain fell the day he went to the shore, to see the place where his wife left him. Grey weighted the clouds like sacks full of stones, sagging closer and closer to the sea. Grey upon grey, water upon water, the sea and sky took hands. The way he once took hers.
She never held his hand long. Always wrenching from his grasp, her flesh still as slippery as a seal. Sometimes she would oblige him, sit shaking like a penned animal as he made hushing noises and rubbed her knuckles with his thumbs.
Please let me love you, he would say. I’ve earned it. I found your skin.
How many books did you read this year?
66! I’m not a bookworm. I’m a bookpython.
(Why yes, I did make an almost identical joke last year, and I’m going to keep making it with slight variations until I’m tired of it, so there!)
What was your number one TOP FAVORITE of them?
Oh jeez, this is so hard, erm, agh, uhh… Gone Girl. No, wait. Wild. No! My Sister’s Keeper! WAIT, NO! The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake! A Man Called Ove! Perks of Being a Wallflower! We Need To Talk About Kevin! WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT WHAT A CRUEL QUESTION THIS IS.
Final answer: “I Have Too Many Favorite Books: A Memoir,” by Shannon Noel Brady.
I’m a bit of a logophile. A word nerd, you might say. I have a long, long, very long list of both English and foreign words I’ve been collecting, whether for their interesting definitions, their lovely sounds, or simply their usefulness in my lexicon. Here are some of my favorites. 🙂
Allow me to set the scene: You’re on page 98, about a quarter of the way in. The story started well – intriguing premise, characters with potential, even a few snappy one-liners. But as the pages went on, that intriguing premise got left behind, the characters now have more marshmallows in their heads than brains, and those one-liners have gone from snappy to crappy.
It’s not alllll bad… There are a few parts you like. Maybe you’re just in a slow spot. But slogging through is such a chore…
So what do you do? Read or flee? Finish or banish?