the inevitable twilight

I suppose I always knew it would happen. I work books, after all, and these things are the hottest things going. Of course, that reasoning hasn't made me pick up A New Earth or The Last Lecture, or even Stori Telling - but it does have some sway with my choices. Some. A little. Okay, the real reason I picked up Twilight the other day and started reading it in earnest (I am done now and moving on to the next book after work) was because I was talking to Chaeli on the phone while cruising up the 405 (Jenny B was at the wheel - no law-breaking for me), and Chaeli said: 'You have to read them. It is so good for people to be reading these books right now.' So I thought, 'Alright already. If they're culturally relevant, I'll read them.'

Let me clarify, I did not avoid these books because I thought they'd be stupid. I'd read the first few pages and knew the writing wasn't bad. And I was 100% certain I would enjoy them. That was half the problem. They are romance novels. Teen romance, at that. And I have been trying very hard to be grown-up about my emotions and ideals.

But a culturally relevant novel is very different from a teen romance novel. A culturally relevant novel is very different from a popular novel (I can see my flatmates scowling at me). And so I read Twilight from beginning to end in less than three days. I know, I could have finished it in one, but I had to work some of the time.

Just as I predicted, the writing was harmless, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I fully intend to purchase an 'I Heart Edward Cullen' t-shirt - mostly for the irony, but also because it is completely and utterly, ridiculously, marvelously true. Like a girl can help it. He is a nearly perfect being. And it is not just his appearance that is flawless. Muscles and shimmery skin are, like, whatever. It's more than that.

And that's just where I got Chaeli wrong. She wasn't saying it was culturally relevant. She was saying it's important for people. Because in the most simple language, and in the most unintentional way, this book is about unconditional love: agape. I closed this book, not with fantasies of demigod vampires spinning around my head, but with a renewed, impassioned love for Jesus. Edward Cullen (and you may quote me) is like Jesus. He is beautiful as the angel of the Lord, more human than those around him - not less - as C. S. Lewis's heaven-dwellers in The Great Divorce. He knows the hearts and minds of all around him - and yet few ever acknowledge him. Most of all, he loves a completely ordinary, unsuspecting girl. And his love makes her extraordinary, unique, and worth a heck of a lot of trouble. He calls her by name. He listens to her every word, whether the news is new or not, as though it is the most important thing for him to do at that moment. He loves her not for her appearance (he often admires her in her muckiest, bruised, or groggy states), but for something essential to her being. Yes, yes, her blood - this is, after all, a vampire story. But is that not also like Jesus? He loves us for the very things that make us human.

I could go on for a good long while, but I don't want you to think I picked this novel apart with all the force of my Christianese, desperately trying to fit it into a formulaic gospel-box. I was not looking for Jesus in the pages of Twilight. I have also not read the next three books - for all I know (though I strongly doubt it), Mr. Cullen could completely destroy my epiphany in the first chapter of New Moon. I just wanted to say that when I put down the book, I saw Jesus staring down at me from the cross with the most intense concentration - seeing me, and desiring my intimacy to such an extent that he would sneak himself onto the boards of my execution (it was very sneaky - my demons had no idea till it was too late). Even then, stretching my pain between his hands, he looked down at me - holding a silly teen book in my two hands - and he called me by name. And he said, 'I would do it again. I would go to hell and come back again.' He saved my life.

I have a feeling I would fall in love with any man who saved my life. Certainly with one who died to keep me alive. So far, Jesus is the only one who's done it. I know Edward Cullen is a fictional vampire. I am not waiting even half a second for him to come knocking on my door. But I am stunned to silence and tears with love for one who's far better - being real, and very much a man.

I made a soundtrack for the Breaking Dawn party before I'd read anything more than inane quotations and fan gushings. According to Jenny B, it is a very fitting soundtrack. But I know now, having read the first of them, that I left out three essential songs. They are from Coldplay's X&Y album. I listened to these three songs almost exclusively the summer after I graduated, when I lived with Megan. I don't know how to post MP3s, so I will let you hunt them down for yourselves if you feel at all inclined: 'Fix You,' 'A Message,' and 'Til Kingdom Come.' These songs represent my first dawning realizations that the love Jesus has for me is more personal and intent and intense than the love of a man for a woman or a father for a daughter or any other dichotomy of affection you could conjure.

I have run out of words and still not spoken anything of what I mean. Not a breath of it. Blur. Just read the book yourself, then.


“ A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects. Robert Anson Heinlein (via ckck)

For more wise words, visit the new link on the right:

Olympic Transitions

Three cheers for the word 'snarky' and for journalists who think! Anne Applebaum of the Slate reports the glaring distinctions between British coverage of the Olympics and... everybody else. Thank you, Ayjay.


The Family Business

Some of my readers may not be aware that my father is a pretty important guy when it comes to homelessness. He's like the godfather of the homeless of Long Beach. Except not as scary. (Note to self: Do not blog after midnight. Sentences become stupid. Metaphors become inane.) At some point in time, everyone of his children - yeah, that would be me and my siblings - has worked for him in some capacity. I typed addresses into a computer and folded newsletters. My oldest sister single-handedly constructed the Long Beach winter shelter last year (slight exaggeration, but she deserves a lot of kudos). My other sister has done smart work for him as well, and it looks as though growing up and getting a 'real' job hasn't quite satisfied. She's coming back, hubby in tow, to ride in the Long Beach Marathon (or whatever it's called), all for the sake of raising money for the Long Beach Rescue Mission. Anyone interested in supporting her ride (she's one of our frequent commentators, by the way), by giving money to the mission, visit this site. I'll update this post with more information about the ride when I am not stupid with midnight. On the other hand, if you're curious, you could just google it yourself. :)



Not much blogging going down this week. Jenny B, one of our regular commentators, is visiting just now. This means that a) blog-worthy things will happen, and b) I will not be around much to blog about them. hehehe..... Meanwhile, let's all celebrate as my sister, also one of our regular commentators, is in the process of purchasing her first home! clap hands...

On a side note, because I really want to be late for work, is anyone else feeling like this blog template is worse than boring? Does it lull you to sleep every time you read my missives? This might change soon. Whenever I find an html artist with time on their hands - 'cause I'm really tired of blogger's present selection.


Latte Heaven

For the best latte I have tasted outside of Italy, go to the Portfolio Coffeehouse. I'm not trying to be a snob. I have ordered from them three times now, and every time they have given me the most delicious coffee beverage I have tasted since I flew out of Rome one year and a half ago. Patronize this place. Now. If you hesitate, know also that they provide free internet access and curiously compelling wall art. What's holding you back?


There once was a what?

Further fairy tale business: Follow this link to a 'choose your own adventure'-type fairy tale. It's pretty awful, but since you make narrative decisions along the way, it's hard to know who's to blame for the inanity of the story. Try it out.


Don't get used to this one-post-a-day thing...

Found an interesting site while browsing in front of the Olympics this evening. It's an online journal of fairy tale stuff. It looks pretty legitimate, too. I think I should work for them. Or at least submit stuff. Perhaps I could work this into the fairy festival I'm planning for November.... How? Haven't got the foggiest idea.


Neuhaus's New Earth?

A quick flashback (not too far back) to my reading of Wright's Surprised by Hope - a task interrupted by Harry Potter, bad teen fiction, and the celebration of Neil Gaiman's transcendentalism - has me going through Neuhaus's response to the book in my ignored April edition of First Things. Happy in his words, I hop back on the journal's website (I have not been checking it as frequently lately. My sense of self-injury as I nobly tackle faithful loan payments and responsible budgeting by working two jobs has seriously cut down on my intellectual and social pursuits, adding to my impatience with an admixture of self-pity and self-contempt. In other words, I don't have the brain power to keep up with these things.). It seems that Neuhaus is tackling Wright's own issue from an entirely different slant. I am curious. I read his previous articles on the same topic. I find his thoughts are soon to be compiled as a book. I am excited. I wonder if it will really be a Neuhaus version of Surprised by Hope or something completely different (his focus is on the comparison of the present world with the Old Testament Babylon, a concept I have not yet encountered in Wright's book. In other words, I am making the comparison between the two books all by my onesies. No foundation in the authors' own self-representations.)

Anyway, if you care to read Neuhaus's first epistle on the subject, follow the link here. Then you can see for yourself what I'm talking about instead of following my rambling-which-ultimately-says-nothing-constructive. I have blamed my rambling on the hour. Now I must blame it on too much coffee, too little food. And not being in the mood to edit myself.


Angels in the Water

Went to the Aquarium of the Pacific this evening. It was open late, so Mom took my grandfather, and Dad and I tagged along. Saw the leafy sea dragons for the second time ever. If you have not seen these ethereal creatures of the sea, let me show you.

You can see a weedy sea dragon here. They're not as angelic, but I think I might like them even more. They're twiggy. Mischievous. I want to make a picture of them.


losing things

First there were my scissors. They were small ones, tucked with my toothbrush and other bathroom goods in my carry-on. Because all I had was a carry-on. I was eating Panda Express with you-know-who-you-are and JennyE. in the waiting warehouse of the Denver airport when I remembered that they were in the bag. I left them there with Colorado, and headed to the security checkpoint feeling unmaterialistic and self-satisfied.

Then there was the face soap and moisturizer, both of which were 2 oz. too big for the satisfaction of the x-ray machine. 'I have more at home,' I told myself, and refused to be annoyed by the passive aggressive contempt of the security woman who told me that had been the liquid standard for some 2.something years. Well, we all have our bad days. I boarded the airplane feeling unmaterialistic, self-satisfied, and full of dignity despite the slight absurdity of three toiletry losses in an hour.

After I returned home, it took only a few days to discover further losses. The man my family had hired to fix up our house for rental had returned to drug-use and taken some of my possessions in the process. Specifically, he took my laptop (broken; I had been using my mother's for some months, anyway), burgundy dress from the independent shop on Main St. in Ventura, my grey Anthropologie dress (the most beautiful article of clothing I have ever owned), my blackandwhite tweed heels, and the silver heels my mother had bought me a few months before. I can't say I was exactly annoyed. I was appalled to find out that my roommate had lost even more. I was disappointed in the thief. But it was almost refreshing to find my possessions that much thinner. I was moving at the time, and filling the closet with those clothes I did have reminded me of how little of it I really used or cared for. The loss made me all the more determined to wear the clothes I love as often as possible - and not to keep them strangely 'special', set apart for occasional use.

The other day, my mother held out a small metal object to me and asked, 'is this yours?' It was one half of my favorite pair of earring studs. She had found it on the floor of the laundry room, it's twin stud apparently having been swallowed by the washing machine. I stared at the stud, feeling stupid for having put the earrings in my pocket in the first place (I never do that.), and wondering just what might be lost next. And if this continues at such a rate, what might my belongings consist of in, say, a year? How long before I have nothing left at all? And in all reality, what would that matter?


dm, where do you find these things?

Think you take a long time getting dressed in the morning? Compare yourself to others and feel better about your time. I wonder, who agrees to photograph her every other morning?



I had a thought about blogging the other day, some subject that seemed worthy of these 'pages'. And now, of course, I can't remember what it was. Was it the stranger showering from our sprinkler spigot at three in the morning? My mother saw her from the window, but did not interfere. It seemed an awkward moment to assert property rights.

Or was it the teen book I picked up the other day and won't pick up again?
A Great and Terrible Beauty, by Libba Bray. It has two sequels and everything. Very unfortunate. It's structured within a post-Victorian British Empire based more on 21st-century prejudices and assumptions of old-world gender-restrictions than actual fact. It seems to try to get away with its diversion from true historical representation by involving itself in a very confused world of dark magic. I say confused, because you find the author has dropped you into it without warning. There were several times where I had to turn back a page or two to find the elusive point of transition from the faux-Victorian world to the pseudo-magical world. Perhaps if I had kept reading, it would have become more developed and less clumsy, but the dialogue and character development was so hackneyed... it sounded like something I would have tried to write in middle school. On the other hand, it sounded like something I would have enjoyed in middle school. It would have been book candy at the time. It's the sort of book that assures me I have grown up in the last decade or so.

And there goes my new years resolution to have fewer opinions. To counter all the criticism, here's one point of virtue in these books: they have beautiful covers. Almost makes you wish you wore a corset.

So anyway, I put the book down after several chapters and picked up The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation. Which is BRILLIANT. The trouble with good books is that I am not nearly as creative in describing them, so I'll just leave it at that. Particularly because I haven't finished it yet. And this is one I absolutely will be picking up again. I may even find myself writing little love notes to M. T. Anderson, author extraordinaire. And hoping against hope that I might find myself an advanced reader copy of Volume II, coming out this October. I think.
exclusive addition: It seems unfair of me not to include some of Anderson's own brilliance. Here's a chopped-up passage from the first part of Volume 1:
[Dr. Trefusis] was possessed of a belief that nothing existed, or to be more precise, that only when things were perceived could we be sure that they existed. He troubled himself in arguments, therefore, that when he was not in his chamber, and no one else was in his chamber, there was no one who could say beyond a shadow of a doubt that his desk still existed, no one to say that the candle still guttered by the bed; or that the bed had not simply frayed apart into atoms.
To combat this situation, he requested that one of the slaves periodically creep to his door when he was absent, and hurl it quickly open, to determine whether the desk remained, or whether, with no one to perceive it, it had simply given up and dissipated....
He maintained that we were surrounded by a vast shadow, a universal emptiness as wide and long as space, in which there were small molten bulbs of color and light, wheresoever there were beings to perceive them. He believed that as we walked, the world of objects unfurled before us like the painted scene for a play, turrets and moats, and topiary aisles slapping down into place just before we would arrive.
Once, late at night, he roused me and took me to an empty room. I was somewhat afraid. The silence of the house was enormous.
He stood me with my back to the wall, one inch from the paneling. He stood next to me. We faced the same way.
'Sir,' said I, 'for what have you--,' but he hissed, and I fell silent.
For a long while, we stared straight forwards, side by side, in the empty room. It was a summer night, and the dogs of the town barked for a time, and then ceased. Still, we stood. Some ten minutes passed; then fifteen.
'Do you feel it, child?' he asked. 'The wall is gone. Space is gone from behind us.'
I could feel nothing.
He said, 'All that is there now is the eye of God.' He shivered. 'The pupil is black, and as large as the world.'



This post is to officially recognize Jenny B. (don't know how you feel about publishing your name on the interwebs) for introducing me to the works of Neil Gaiman. Yes, I know it took me a long time to come around. It usually does. But am I not here now? and is that not all that matters? Thank you.


thank you, ayjay.


How easy it is to live with You, O Lord.
How easy to believe in You.
When my spirit is overwhelmed within me,
When even the keenest see no further than the night,
And know not what to do tomorrow,
You bestow on me the certitude
That You exist and are mindful of me,
That all the paths of righteousness are not barred.
As I ascend in to the hill of earthly glory,
I turn back and gaze, astonished, on the road
That led me here beyond despair,
Where I too may reflect Your radiance upon mankind.
All that I may reflect, You shall accord me,
And appoint others where I shall fail.End quote.

—Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, 1972

The Graveyard Book

Neil Gaiman's newest novel The Graveyard Book is coming out this September, and I think we should throw a party. I am not sure if I've ever read anyone as boldly imaginative as Neil Gaiman. And when I say bold, I mean stand-in-front-of traffic-and-wave-your-arms bold. Except not as stupid.

Maybe I should start over. Neil Gaiman has written several novels that have been received with wide acclaim from young and old readers alike. His children's novel, Coraline, had me shivering in my seat with spine-tingling fear - the most delightfully enchanted fear I have ever felt. (Perhaps the only enchanted fear I have ever felt.) He co-wrote the screenplay for Beowulf (2007), introducing a startling perspective on the ancient hero with intelligence and sympathy. His novel Stardust was hilarious and riveting and curious and new and old. As was the film, which he also wrote. Everything I have read or seen of his has been a brilliant fusion of novelty and familiarity. His is the stuff of fireside tales on cold winter nights, legends laughingly told in a pub, anecdotes that cause conversations to come to a standstill.

And The Graveyard Book is no exception. It is, in fact, just what we would expect from him - something entirely new. It is the story of Nobody Owens, a young boy who grows up in a graveyard, the adopted son of a happily dead couple from the 17th century, and the godson of the resident vampire. His school lessons consist of haunting, fading, and guarding against ghouls. The local witch (dead and buried some four hundred years before) just might have a crush on him. But he is alive. Very much alive. And someone, for some reason, doesn't want to keep him that way.

After reading this book, you might find yourself preferring cemeteries to playgrounds. You will wish your teachers were werewolves. Shadows and shades, ghost stories and ghouls, will seem rather... fun. If you ever thought there was a limit to the powers of fiction, ideas too unrealistic, premises too unlikely, you will find yourself happily humbled. Gaiman has broken all the boundaries between real life and every other-world - and we are pleased to be so easily convinced, to find our disbelief so quickly and joyfully suspended.



The BD party is over, and I get to breathe. Sleep. Relax. At least until more work next week. I actually had to go on a stealth book run this morning to grab some more copies since the publishers shunted the independents of Southern California and our shipment isn't coming for a good long while. I wonder how long it will take for me to get the books from a used book place. You know, for like a dime. They have no resale value.

Meanwhile, I have started writing a children's story. I know, I know. I'm supposed to be working on my novel. But who can focus when there are children in the world? I will tell you more as it unfolds, perhaps even posting the story in installments. As long as it doesn't get swiped.
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