Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Pulitzer Prize...

The New York Times

April 17, 2012

And the Winner Isn’t ...

WHAT goes on during a deliberation is a private matter for the jurors alone; the rest of us are privy only to the verdict. That holds true for book awards as well as murder cases. So when the Pulitzer Prize Board announced on Monday that there were three finalists for the fiction prize and no winner, we were left to draw our own conclusions.
So far I’ve been able to come up with two: either the board was unable to reach a consensus, or at the end of the day the board members decided that none of the finalists, and none of the other books that were not finalists, were worthy of a Pulitzer Prize.
What I am sure of is this: Most readers hearing the news will not assume it was a deadlock. They’ll just figure it was a bum year for fiction.
As a novelist and the author of an eligible book, I do not love this. It’s fine to lose to someone, and galling to lose to no one.
Still, it is infinitely more galling to me as a reader, because there were so many good books published this year. I put Edith Pearlman’s “Binocular Vision: New and Selected Stories” at the top of that list, and so did many others. She was the winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award and a finalist for the National Book Award and the Story Prize. Her collection would have stood among the best winners in the Pulitzer’s history.
My other favorite was Denis Johnson’s “Train Dreams,” which did make it onto the Pulitzer Prize shortlist. I don’t think there is a sentence in that book that isn’t perfectly made, and its deeply American story fits with the Pulitzer’s criteria.
On that count, the prize could rightly have gone to two other books with important takes on the American condition: Russell Banks’s “Lost Memory of Skin” or Jesmyn Ward’s “Salvage the Bones,” the winner of the National Book Award. It could have taken a turn for the strange and highly imaginative and gone to another of the three finalists, Karen Russell’s “Swamplandia!” or to Kevin Wilson’s beautifully weird “The Family Fang.”
And while no one has ever won for two consecutive books, couldn’t this have been the year? I have no doubt that Jeffrey Eugenides would have won for “The Marriage Plot” if he hadn’t already won for “Middlesex.”
If I feel disappointment as a writer and indignation as a reader, I manage to get all the way to rage as a bookseller.
In November of last year, along with my business partner, Karen Hayes, I opened Parnassus Books in Nashville. The brick-and-mortar bookstore, as people seem to point out to us hourly, is not exactly a thriving business model (though we are doing fine), and the publishing industry, especially since the Department of Justice has decided to be Amazon’s bodyguard, is struggling as well.
So while it’s true that the Pulitzer committee has, since its inception in 1917, declined to award the prize on 10 previous occasions, I can’t imagine there was ever a year we were so in need of the excitement it creates in readers.
The winners are written up in papers and talked about on the radio, and sometimes, at least on PBS stations, they make it onto television. This in turn gives the buzz that is so often lacking in our industry — Did you hear about that book?
With book coverage in the media split evenly between “Fifty Shades of Grey” and “The Hunger Games,” wouldn’t it have been something to have people talking about “The Pale King,” David Foster Wallace’s posthumous masterwork about a toiling tax collector (and this year’s third Pulitzer finalist)? Wallace is not going to have another shot at a win, which makes the fact that no one could make up their minds as to whether or not he deserved it all the more heartbreaking.
Let me underscore the obvious here: Reading fiction is important. It is a vital means of imagining a life other than our own, which in turn makes us more empathetic beings. Following complex story lines stretches our brains beyond the 140 characters of sound-bite thinking, and staying within the world of a novel gives us the ability to be quiet and alone, two skills that are disappearing faster than the polar icecaps.   (bold by me.)
Unfortunately, the world of literature lacks the scandal, hype and pretty dresses that draw people to the Academy Awards, which, by the way, is not an institution devoted to choosing the best movie every year as much as it is an institution designed to get people excited about going to the movies. The Pulitzer Prize is our best chance as writers and readers and booksellers to celebrate fiction. This was the year we all lost.
Ann Patchett is the author, most recently, of the novel “State of Wonder” and a founder of Parnassus Books.

This article reminds me of a few statements made by Faber (the old man) in Farenheit 451. " It [ the Televisor] tells you what to think and blasts it in. It must be right.It seems so right.  It rushes you on so quickly to it's own conclusions your mind hasn't time to protest. " You can shut them [books], say 'hold on a moment.' You play God to it...Books can be beaten down with reason."

I don't go off the Pulitzer Prize or any list for that matter on choosing what I will read next but, the written word on a page is becoming antiquated by the written word electronically and that scares me.

I love the feel of a book in hand, the smell of it, the stiff pages when new and then crinkled when read over and again.

I've mentioned this before but I am a trueist when it comes to reading. Only when away from home and have not packed a book will I read a book on my ipad or phone, (which reading on the phone is miserable but works if having withdrawls like on a trip and the packed book is finished.- I read Stephanie Meyers partial transcript of Midnight Sun that way- all 600 something words. I don't recommend it!)
Thanks Ann Patchett for writing an article that expresses some of my feelings and yet I still fall prey to.

Fahrenheit 451- Ray Bradbury

Have you ever read a book that you wished you could quote whole pages because they just affected you so profoundly and you know you can't for Copyright reasons? This to me is one of those books.

I hate to admit it but this is the first time I have ever read Fahrenheit 451. I didn't take Honor's English or AP English in High School. Believe it or not I didn't care about school. I didn't think that school work was important because I was learning enough to get a good grade on the test and didn't need to "turn in" my home work even though I did the work. I just thought the teacher should just gauge that I was learning what I needed to learn. I digress I was talking about Ray Bradbury's book.

I have chosen in the past year to pick one classic a month (even if they are books that some people believe should be banned like last years- Catch 22 or Slaughterhouse 5.) I had no idea what this book was about. It was just the book that was next on my list to read. I am so glad that It was. I am in love with the idea of this book. I am grateful that Bradbury decided to write about this subject.

I am amazed that he wrote the original short story that this short novel is based on in 9 days!  Imagine.
I want to read the short story and believe that I have found the short story included in a book called "A Pleasure to Burn" also written by Ray Bradbury (16 short stories that precursor 451.) I ordered it from a used bookstore because I want to devour more of  Mr. Bradbury's mind on his process of writing Fahrenheit 451.

I think it is intriguing that Bradbury would take the firemen of our day and the heros into the firemen of  Montag's day; where they are no longer needed to fight and banish fires of burning buildings, but instead are doing the burning themselves of something I think are even more irreplaceable then structures but books. When the books are gone they were no longer recognizable to the human race. Isn't it interesting that this is a book with the subject of destroying books?  I love that Bradbury even in a day and age when T.V. was in it's nursery showed how obsessively ruinous T.V. can be to cultivating thoughts when blindly watched for hours on end and maybe controlled by powers higher than the average citizen. Seems to be a little too familiar to me.

When Montag runs into the old man in the park and then goes to his house I found that the best part of the whole book. The conversation of the three required items needed to be able to bring books back into the world and have people accept the books. This is the section I could write volumes on.
     "We have everything we need to be happy, but we aren't happy." Montag said to Faber. Faber goes on to tell Montag, "It's not books you need, it's some of the things that once were in books...  The magic is only in what books say, how they stitched the patches of the Universe together into one garment for us..."

I will stop here so that I don't ruin it for anyone who hasn't read it all I know is Ray Bradbury was an inspired genius!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

End of an Era; Wonder of a Miracle

sts-63 launch

The year was 1995, it was night, you were blasting over our head.
A miniature lad clad in a blue Astronaut jumpsuit held his hands over his ears blocking out the deafening sound produced by your red and orange fire. Swirling smoke spiraled out of your temporary rocket boosters.
Child-like awe formed watching your ascension to the Heavens.
Shivering in the balmy Florida air my camcorder lost your profile for a few seconds triggering my hasty zoom all over the sky with my lens desperately trying to find you again.
your boom into the atmosphere reverberated within my entire body spreading joy into my heart. You were an amazingly complex and hard to fathom miracle. You, who carried, brave men and women to places where only a few had tread. You, who tagged up with a heavenly station uniting the world only in that one place where all countries had to get along or become non-productive.

Now, in 2012, I watch you piggy backing on a super 747. You, the black snouted bird looking careworn and ancient. You have beaten all others flying higher than anyone could ever have imagined and pulling in so many more millions of miles than your kind usually flies. You carried Satellites that enabled communication across the world, into our hands, into our ears and into our homes. Satellites that researched our atmosphere and spacecraft that researched that ball of fire that produces our heat and light which we loving call the Sun.
You propelled the Hubble telescope the same year that my wanted-to-be astronaut was born.

Emotionally, I watch you fly over our Nation’s capital; the same building that cut the funding that created your demise.
Melancholy envelopes my heart not only for you, your kind and those who have nurtured, feed and flown with you but for change. The Change that may or may not stifle innovation, the change that your demise has created for the State of Florida and the change that is growing more prevalent everyday just in my own family. No longer is that little astronaut clad lad looking up to the sky wondering when it will be his turn, he has moved on just as it seems the nation has and that in of itself is cause for concern. In the immortal words of one of NASA’s own astronauts Jim Lovell “I look up at the moon and wonder, when will we be going back, and who will that be?”

Thank You NASA & shuttle Discovery (OV-103) for such wonderful memories!

shuttle florida final
Photo courtesy of  USA today

*upper photos courtesy of NASA.GOV

Sunday, April 08, 2012

Easter Sunday Thoughts

Easter morning, the world is quiet and everyone is at peace in bed...this is not as it should be. I am expected to be at the church to warm up the vocal cords at 8:15 a.m. and it is now 7:45 and NO ONE is awake except for me. This really isn't that big of a deal since the rest of the family doesn't need to be at church until 9:00 a.m. My let down about no one being awake is really about the fact that my children will be waking up to their Easter egg trail and I will not be around! This saddens me because I have just a little time left to love, cuddle, photograph and record these memories before Kyler will be going to college. I hoped that Matt (who woke up right before I left for church,) would either take pictures or ask the kids to wait until we got home from church. Not to happen- I missed the big unveiling... Kenna loved her Pool Chair, Kyler loved his Pool basketball set and Matt well, he left our Easter Trail for me to unveil. It was strategically hidden under our bed covers. I had the stuff the Easter Bunny packed (me,) which was just candy and then a secret surprise (from maybe the Easter Bunny's husband?) a really cool bird feeder that squirrels can't get into but the sweet birdies can. Complete this bird feeder with seed and up it went in 5 seconds flat in the backyard where everyone can see it. (this was all happened after church.)

Our sweet small choir sang four songs in celebration of The Savior's life and sacrifice for our redemption during our Easter service. One of the songs has touched my heart over the last few months and has really affected my testimony. It's entitled "This is the Christ" it is featured in the LDS church production the "Testaments" the lyrics are written by James E. Faust and it is just a super special song. For the longest time there was only me as a soprano practicing these songs and no altos (me, Linda [who sings tenor] Netty [who signs and doesn't sing] and a few men singing tenor and bass,) basically it was soprano solo from Sandi time in the upper registers and I felt as if my dear sweet grandma Field was singing from Heaven with me the whole time.  Not to brag but I was reaching notes I had never been able to reach on my own and wasn't afraid to belt it out like I normally had. These practices have really helped build my appreciation for the gifts and talents I have been given by my heavenly father!  Last Wednesday when additional voices were added the spirit wasn't speaking to me as much. I don't know if I was trying too hard to listen and wasn't really "hearing" or the additional voices drowned out what the heavenly voices were singing. I really missed those Heavenly voices until today when they came back and spoke to my soul again.

The world feels right as I sit outside writing this post. The Jasmine hangs heavy on our wooden fence and it's perfume is wafting through the breeze while birds sing melodies that not even the best opera singer could touch.

We have been blessed to be given the beauty of this planet and yet, the evils that twinge the beauty are never far away when you flip on the t.v. switch. we can choose to be ignorant of the horrors that happen in the world just by not reading a paper, watching t.v. or powering up my computer; but we need to live in the world and all its complexities because that is what we have been given..

Some of this foulness is shown in the bible where the knowledge I gained of so many didn't understand or were envious of the goodness of Jesus Christ. This has led me eventually to the thought that even though he was crucified on a cross, went through mental anguish and pain the joyous news that he had risen on the third day rang out among his followers, because of this act of love we are able to live eternally with our mortal families and our Heavenly families someday if we but follow his example of goodness.
Without our Elder brother Jesus consenting in the Pre-existence to come to this earth and to suffer for our sins no matter how big or small those sins will be without an expected retribution is to me the biggest gift of all- better than the birds, the flowers, the health or happiness that we are naturally blessed with. His sacrifice for us is unfathomable but so extremely thought provoking that I can't aptly express my gratitude in words.

Without the bad in the world how do we know what is the good, pure and beautiful? This is the testimony that I have received this day. I am thankful it has come to me on a beautiful Easter day like today. If I could sing to each of you the above video is what I would be singing.

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Math and the "5 Hour Energy" Girl

Yesterday (and probably tomorrow [ actually for the last few weeks]) I have had a girl who has completely been annoying me from across the classroom. She was moved right next to me by the Professor! Usually, she is standing up and talking, cleaning out her backpack and offering over and over her little can of 5-hour Energy Drink. I am pretty sure that she either has drank too much of that drink or she is one something else.

To drown her out I wear my iphone headphones crank up the Mozart channel on Pandora and try to focus on what I am doing in my own little world. Yesterday, I had to finish up my practice test so that I could move on to the module test helping me to move on to the next Module. I really want to get all 9 modules done so that I don't have to do this class again!  Anyway, she distracted me. Finally got the practice test done 10 minutes before the end of class. I decided not to wait until Wednesday and went to the Math Lab. Low and behold while I was sitting in the glassed off test area the girl comes in and sits down to take her practice test! she talked for the first 20 minutes of my 60 minute test!!!!  To say I was peeved was an understatement- I ended up running out of time (mind you it was a HARD module.) and ended up with a 65% on the test. The only lucky aspect is that I get one more chance to take the test without having to do the Module again. Tomorrow I sit against the wall in my regular classroom, crank up the headphones and make sure I am siting next to someone else other than the "5 hour energy girl"

This is not why the girl in my class is drinking 5-Hour Energy Drinks- there is no way that she can get an A when she can't even get her concepts figuared out, and/or sit down to work on her studies!

Wish me luck! I still have 3 module left until the end of April and then the final exam to make sure is done by May 5th!


Flesh is sacred,
some of us treat ours so badly.
Others out of no choice of their own
lose the fight
and gain eternal freedom
from the pain of this world.

Today was one of those days-
added to a year of beautiful
people with beautiful presences
who have lost their lives to Cancer.

Today the third of our family
fighting the meanness of
a disease so horrible it
nibbles for long periods
of time or gobbles in instances
the soul of loved ones
succumbed to years worth of glorious battle.

It is interesting that we started with an  Robert and today end with a Robert.
Hidden in the middle of that Robert sandwich was the sweetest aunt Melissa; a provider not only of nourishment but also of soul who loved to have others around her.

I digress today is Robert Finlinson's day.
I am grieving not for myself whom only met Robert a few times but for his family- Jessica, his wife, his children, his parents, siblings and especially for his younger brother who is my little brother (in spirit if not blood,) Rich and my dear sister Sharon.

It takes a toll on ones life when someone close to you loses a loved one. You mourn for the lost soul, but you mourn more for the ones left behind. They are the ones who remember the good, beautiful moments and also the hard, torturous ones and wonder why they couldn't have done more.

If you have a faith in life, love of a Heavenly Father and joy in the here after than you mourn with a little more peace which doesn't take off the sting but makes it just a little more bearable. Robert is one of those people whom we know will be waiting for his family to join him (a long time for them but for him just moments).

What more can one do for someones family than to just send flowers to a mortuary?  I think we owe it to ourselves and those we have lost (and those who live,) to take more than a second to rethink our lives-  Are we living the way we should be? Are we taking care of our bodies the best that we can? Are we listening to our leaders when they tell us to stop judging, belittling and hating on others. Are we loving others to the capacity that we hold in our beings to the full extent that we can? If the answers to these questions have any hesitation than we need to re plan out what constitutes the life we have left and live up to our potential.

There is Joy and Pain on this journey through life and we chose to face these things with optimism or downright contriteness. Reading Jessica's blog showed that she chose to face the hard journey, she, Robert and her children were on with a little humor, a ton of faith and a eye on the future. May we learn from her strong character and her love for the life that she was able to live with Robert in the decades she had with him.