Monthly Archives: July 2011

Wild, Wild West: The Sisters Brothers, by Patrick DeWitt

Combining a hodgepodge of science fiction, gore, magic, the poignant, aching theme of loneliness and wrapping it all up under the ruse of a classic western seems unlikely, but it’s exactly what Patrick DeWitt has done in his novel The Sisters Brothers.

Set in California and Oregon in 1851, The Sisters Brothers follows the journey of Eli and Charlie Sisters, two brothers with a knack for killing and a troubled past. Employed by the mysterious man known only as The Commodore as his hired hitmen, the Sisters brothers must travel to San Francisco to “deal with” the red-headed scientist Hermann Kermit Warm. All does not go as planned, however, and after tangles with whores, witches, and Gold Rush era gangsters, the Sisters brothers must eventually come to terms with the realities of their pasts, presents, and futures.

The Sisters Brothers is narrated by Eli, the more introverted, thoughtful of the two. His voice is ripe with loneliness and neglect, especially at the hands of his callous older brother. One moment, the reader roots for this lonesome underdog, the next, we are revolted at the ease of his inhumanity towards his victims, making this novel a truly compelling read.

I found myself wishing (fruitlessly), however, that Eli would take a stand against the powerful figures who controlled his life, and each time an opportunity passed I grew more frustrated. In the end, though, justice is served in true western fashion and the reader comes away knowing that maybe, one day, our unlikely heroes will ride off into the sunset.

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(A Few) Things I Appreciate Besides Books…

Shoes, my word nerds. Glorious, super-model-height-inducing, make-you-want-to-dance, spectacular shoes.

Like these babies:

 Simple, architectural, and soon to be mine. I love you.

Or this:

This is my beautiful, beautiful internal frame backpacking backpack. It reminds me of adventure and sleeping in train stations and trying to pitch a tent with altitude sickness.

Also:

Super easy and ridiculously fun art projects, like these.

Or how about some of this:

Oh my lord. Whoever invented these deserves a Nobel Peace Prize. Real talk.

I just wanted to let you know that I really do have a life outside of books…or so I like to pretend.

Bumbling Wanderlust: No Touch Monkey! And Other Travel Lessons Learned Too Late, by Ayun Halliday

So, I have this friend. A friend who is a dude. A dudefriend, shall we say. A week or so ago, this dudefriend and I were engaging in some 3 AM phone banter (along with being nerd-like, I have some serious issues with sleep), and I was explaining to him that I have a serious, serious case of wanderlust, and all I really want to do with my life is travel around the world and experience as much of it as I possibly can before I die. This dudefriend, knowing full and well of my love for books, then asked me a very good question:

“Have you ever read any books on travel?” (He said this in a very annoying manner, as dudefriends are wont to do.)

Point for you, dudefriend. No, I had not read any books on travel; I’d read guidebooks and brochures when I was trekking around Europe for four months, I’d read articles found in  my parents Scuba magazines, and I’d devoured the Travel section of the L.A. Times, but never once had I read a real, honest-to-goodness travel book.

And thus I arrived at No Touch Monkey! And Other Travel Lessons Learned Too Late by Ayun Halliday. Halliday is refreshingly honest, open, and forthright with her (mis)adventures in traveling, from being accosted by a prostitute in Amsterdam, to the woes of a malaria-ravaged digestive track in Africa, to lessons on hygiene from a train station cop in Munich. Often funny in her brutal honesty, Halliday’s book reflects the conflict between what one expects and what one receives when exploring the world.

While Halliday’s honesty is delightfully frank, she takes some of the magic away from travel. Her child-like wonder when she first arrives in each country is repeatedly squashed by some bizarre (and, admittedly, entertaining), which eventually becomes tiresome for the reader, whose hopes are dashed as well as having the exotic de-mystified.

For a good laugh and a relatable read for travelers who love the word, but can’t who can’t quite seem to get it right, look no further than No Touch Monkey!

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How to Impress the Ladies

-Lord Byron, “She Walks in Beauty,” 1814

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Experiments in Prose Poetry

One of the great things about language is that, other than basic grammar and spelling, there are really no rules on how combine words to create effect.  Which brings us to prose poetry. Made particulary famous by poets such as Oscar Wilde, Elizabeth Smart, and Seamus Heaney (for more information on Seamus Heaney, check out this blog entry), prose poetry is which is written in prose; that is, it does not rhyme and is in sentace or paragraph form, but reads lyrically and employs heightened imagery and emotional effect.

Here’s an example:

THE CRATE.

Midway between cage and cachot, or cell, the French has cageot, a simple little open-slatted crate devoted to the transport of fruit that is sure to sicken at the slightest hint of suffocation. Devised in such a way that after use it can easily be broken down, it never serves twice. Thus its life-span is shorter even than that of the perishables it encloses.
So, at the corners of every street leading to the market, it gleams with the unassuming lustre of slivered pine. Still brand new and somewhat aghast at the awkward situation, dumped irretrievably on the public thoroughfare, this object is most appealing, on the whole — yet one whose fate doesn’t warrant our overlong attention.

-Francis Ponge (1899-1988)

Feeling inspired one night, I tried my hand at prose poetry, submitted it to the Prose-Poem Project, an online magazine dedicated to prose poetry, and, long story short, they liked it! The issue comes out in the fall, but here’s my poem (please be nice to it…):

LONG SUMMER NIGHT.

It’s one fifteen AM. The house is hushed, minus the forceful ticking of that damned clock. Outside, through my window, an owl keeps asking me the same repetitive question, to which I have no answer. A chorus of relentless crickets chirp in the undergrass, and the old oak tree rustles in a warm wind, the last of the sun’s hot breath exhaled from a long summer day. Moonlight glides up my shoulder, makes my skin glow in patchwork like a strange yet-discovered creature. Maybe it’s the damned clock, or the inquisitive owl, or the promises I hear whispered by the oak tree, but I think of you and long to know what your skin would look like, iridescent next to mine.

So there you have it! Hopefully you guys will be inspired too.

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