Posted tagged ‘vampire novels’

Carpe Decade – ‘If Not Now, When?’ (Say Never!)

December 29, 2009

I was going to list, in today’s blog, all the reasons not to escape into a vampire novel in the few early morning hours one might capture alone on a family vacation.  These are hours in which a beach might be jogged, meditation attempted, a blog written.  As tempting as it may be to succumb to the dark echoless depths of Bill Compton’s eyes, do not give in!

Since I did give in, and no more free time presented itself until now when it’s almost midnight, I feel bound to come up with something better.   (If not now, when?!)   How about this:

A new decade is about to begin.  In some ways, it’s pretty random to divide time into decades.  Yes, our mathematical system is based on ten, but unless you happen to be born in a year ending in zero, the societal division of years tends not to correspond with one’s personal age markers.

I was not born in a year ending in zero.  And yet the beginning of this past decade did correspond with some fairly dramatic markers for me.  This had something to do with the fact that it was the beginning not just of a decade but a millennium.

I grew up during a time when 1984 represented some distant (horrible) future.  When that grew old hat, the futuristic was represented by 2001.  But there we were—on the cusp of the year 2000!

For me, the turning of all four digits on the calendar brought an intense understanding of the facts that time truly did pass, green browned, life dried up;  that roads not taken, lights at the end of hallways, might not be encountered again;  that turning back is an act with consequences every bit as real and possibly shattering as moving forward.

The beginning of a new decade/century/millennium not only raised the question, ‘if not now, when?’  but answered it with sparkling and demanding clarity—’never!’   If not now, never.

This ‘never’ is very important.  Without it, the question, ‘if not now, when?’ is often not enough to goad action.   (Instead, vampire books may just be re-read again and again.)

The problem is that there is a part of one that waits for a portal–a gateway labeled ‘NOW’, which will swish one from hesitation, fear, escapism, to ‘yes, yes, yes.’    Which will not just be a ‘yes yes yes’ in the brain, but the ‘yes, yes, yes’ of sustained and directed action.

For me, the coming of the year 2000, combined with a few other things that are a bit personal to go into here but may be summed up by the image of someone else’s hands upon a steering wheel (strong, long-fingered hands), served as that portal.  Until, well, the days began turning over with less dramatic numbers on them, and drudgery, excuse, kicked in again, at least in many areas.   Every once in a while something would catapult the brain into ‘if not now, when!’ alertness—national catastrophe, the dying of certain friends (beloved friends, friends my age)—but these negative events are not exactly liberating.  They are as likely to send one’s shoulder  slumping heavily to the wheel as to inspire high-spirited high-rolling.

But now we are here again.  2010.  If not at the turning of a millennium, at least a decade.

So, come on.  Here’s your chance.  If not now, when?

Things Not To Do At An Office Christmas Party

December 18, 2009

1.         Pee against the wall of the banquet hall in which the party is being held, or even in an adjacent phone booth.  (I witnessed this indiscretion at the first office Christmas party I ever went to.  The employee did not last into January.)

2.        Mention, in passing,  either  (a) the tax research you were supposed to finish by today, or (b) any suicidal impulses.

3          Discuss, even intelligently, any obsession you may have with either vampire novels, or  Robert Pattinson.

4.         Order a sixth bottle of beer or thirds on the chocolate dessert.

5.         Drink out of the wine glasses, or eat off the plates, of any co-worker.  (Yes, I know it’s a sin to waste wine, or food, especially chocolate.)

6.          Be anything but thankful to any figure of authority, but not rubbing-up-against-thankful, no matter how many glasses of someone else’s wine you have finished.

7.     Ask for a raise between courses.  Or during courses.

8.         Ask too many times whether there is bacon in the soup.

9.         Forget to ask, if you are a known vegetarian, whether there is bacon in the soup.

10.       Eat the soup.  ( It either has bacon or chicken broth.)  Just stick with the salad.

11.       And the chocolate dessert.

Ten Signs That You Need To Change Something In Your Life

December 10, 2009

1.  You wake up wishing you had a very mild case of swine flu.

2.  Despite the two cups of tea, your energy doesn’t kick in till you notice your (old) dog pooping on the carpet.

3.  After the clean-up, you do speed yoga, convincing yourself that it’s on the frontier between relaxation techniques and aerobics.

4.  Your subway ride (only three stops on the express) is the most restful time of your day. (It somehow beats out the speed yoga.)

5.  You re-read vampire novels as you walk from the subway to your office.  You are more concerned about being seen by a co-worker than being hit by a car.

6.  As you get your first cup of work tea, you can’t help thinking that even a mild case might be okay.

7.  After your fourth cup, you are tense enough that, when you get a call from your apartment building, your first thought is that your (old) dog has died.  You know that doesn’t make sense—(would the corpse smell already?)  And yet you can’t help picturing fur leaking out from under your door.  (Yech.)

8.  You are too busy to check Robert Pattinson news even just one time.

9.  Though when someone gives you (for Christmas) a Robert Pattinson calendar, it really makes your day.

10.  You take the local home, happy for the extra stops.

After the Ninth Southern Vampire Novel

December 7, 2009

Under pressure of pressure (that is, randomized, yet persistent, work and life demands), I read nine vampire books last week.  (The “Sookie stackhouse Southern Vampire Mysteries” by Charlaine Harris).  This is not something I am proud of.

I also managed (for the record) to get to work every day, to work while there, even to put in several hours on Sunday.  Cooking was done Laundry was not.  (I hereby send an open apology to all members of my gym.)

Sleep was intermittent.   Perhaps, as a result, I felt a bit dazed finishing the ninth novel this morning (“benighted” may be a better description.)

I’m not quite sure why one (“I”) turn to silly books under pressure. Of course, there’s the whole mind candy business.  (See my earlier post “When Escapism Hits Hard –…pism-hits-hard/ )

And yes, it’s embarrassing.  Still, there it is.  Some nights (and mornings, Saturday afternoons, and subway rides) will have their vampires (in print.)

Since I am new to this genre, I don’t know what is standard.  I did notice a considerable overlap between the Sookie Stackhouse novels and the Twilight Saga – cool, perfectly handsome, powerful, vamps in love triangles with warm, slightly less handsome and powerful, “were” figures (werewolves, shape shifters, were tigers) and a humble but cute gal who has an extra-special zing to her blood.  There are also characters who can read minds (Edward Cullen and Sookie Stackhouse), but who fall in love with those whose minds they cannot read.  Jokes about the ridiculousness of vampires and baseball.   Enforcers of  vampire “law”.  Many descriptions of clothes.

The Sookie Stackhouse books are much more diverse than Twilight, with (i) a soap-opera-sized number of characters, (ii) nearly non-stop corpses, (iii) an interesting social context (Northern Louisiana); (iv) an interesting political context (the vampires have “come out of the closet” with worldwide TV announcements), and, of course, (v) actual sex/frequent biting (as opposed to abstinence/last-resort biting ).  No wonder the books have successfully translated to a television series (True Blood, which I confess I’ve never seen.)

And yet, despite the fact that I read all the Sookie Stackhouse books straight through, I can also see why they do not have the devoted readership of Twilight.   First, the books are not written for tween/teenage girls, a viciously loyal  group.   Secondly, the books are basically crime mysteries,  inherently written for just one read.

Third, and most important,  where’s the Edward (i.e. Robert Pattinson)?    Bill Compton (and remember, I haven’t seen the TV series) is the closest to unconditionally devoted and droolworthy. (Eric is promising but sneaky, Alcide too hairy, and Quinn, the were-tiger, too unintelligent.)  But after the first book or so, poor Bill only briefly passes, longingly, through the dark of Sookie’s yard.

By the ninth (and last published) book, anyone with a romantic temperament  (read “me”) is getting really tired of Bill’s near-absence.  But, lo and behold, the series is not yet finished.  Ms. Harris has apparently realized that, in our high-pressure world, the appetite for mind candy, like the appetites of Sookie’s vamps, takes many many bites to satisfy.

UPDATE TO THIS POST FROM JANUARY 7, 2010–After much “review”, I’ve found that the Sookie Stackhouse novels are pretty good “re-reads” after all.  If you are in the mood for escapism, they definitely hold up for repeated reads.  I also want to revise my question: “Where’s the Edward?”  The male characters, especially Eric and Bill, do grow on one.  “Like a fungus,” as Sookie says in one of the books (to Eric).   Eric and Bill have certain advantages (for the reader) over Edward as well that almost make up for the fact that they are not embued with the image of Robert Pattinson.  They are quirky, definitely flawed, have senses of humor, and are very sensual.   Fun.

More On Blocking Writer’s Block – Discipline/Playfulness

December 2, 2009

Generally, I really do believe that discipline is the paramount tool  in (i) getting real work done; and (ii) achieving lasting happiness.  (A bit of a workaholic, I have a hard time imagining happiness in the absence of real work.)

Discipline is especially important if your real work is creative.  Inspiration is terrific, of course, but the tangible application of inspiration generally takes some putting of your shoulder to the wheel, nose to the grindstone.

And yet….   And yet…  creativity also requires play—the shaking free of the shoulder, the picking of the nose off the grindstone and thumbing it at the world, the off-beat syncopation of the song, the heightened leap of the dance,  the crazy invented rhyme, the stroke, if not of genius, at least of ingenuity.

Discipline/play—it’s a pretty crazy balancing act, strength and elasticity, practice and spontaneity, muscle and frill.

Actually, I’m not sure that “frill” is the right word.  Maybe “flow” works better.  “Flow” sounds pretty darn creative, and yet unchannelled flow can also end in puddles, swampland, ditches, floating you away, sinking you in muck.  (Yes, I’ve probably taken that metaphor too far.)

Still, the point is that you need to figure out a balance–a way to discipline your use of time, while remaining playful within that time.  It’s important too, even while disciplined, to remain open to obsession, crazy tangents.   Adhere only to discipline and you could end up writing computer manuals, or worse, you could self-implode, and become simply escapist, reading vampire novels all night.

Too much playfulness, on the other hand, can also lead to complete self-indulgence, ending up in mindless haiku.   (Sorry, good haiku.)

Unfortunately, after a lot of discipline, I’ve moved into to the escapist mode in the last few days.  As a result, I’ll end this right here so I can go back to my nighttime reading.

(For more specific suggestions on blocking writer’s block, or other creative blocks, check out my posts in this category from the ManicDDaily home page.)