[Day 14] A non-fictional book

I recently picked up ‘I should have stayed at home: The worst trips of great writers’. It’s an anthology of anecdotes from different writers on the worst trips they’ve ever been on. Among the writers featured are Pico Iyer, Isabel Allende, Paul Thereoux, and many more.

Isabelle Allende writes about going around Europe on $1 a day, while Pico Iyer and a companion dodge sexual predators in Egypt. In another chapter, a writer talks about an impromptu trip around the world by a US president and the toll it took on his press corps. It’s more than little cautionary tales while on the road, it is, in essence, the best of the worst.

After all, as Mary Morris says in her introduction, “But it is not our comforts we remember–or that anyone else cares to remember for that matter. What is memorable is misery. It is our dismay, our disbelief, and the fact that we made it through. There is some perverse natural law that makes adversity lead to inspiration.”

Oh whew, finally reached the halfway point of this meme!

Part of the 30 Day Writing Meme. Next is Day 15: A fanfic.

[Day 13] A fictional book

I’ll count the last entry as the one for day 12.

Funny, when made to name a fictional book, I’m at a loss for words. Where to start? I already wrote about Harriet the Spy.

Ah, I know, I’ll write about the Jessica Darling series.

The Jessica Darling Books by Megan McCafferty

I make no excuses: this is chick-lit. I actually like chick-lit when the female protagonist is not so simplistic. It isn’t all about settling down and getting married after all. As a twenty-something girl who often feels like someone in a chick-lit setting, it’s a juggling act of work, love, friendship, and coming to terms with myself. It is a cliche because it’s true.

Jessica Darling from books one to three narrates through a compilation of letters to her best friend. She is a frustrated achiever, smarter and more aware of what goes on outside of her little town. Of all the people to empathize with her, it’s with Marcus, the high school druggie. What follows is a rollercoaster relationship with Marcus, as well as struggling to stick to the bigger picture no matter how small-minded the world around her is. As she enters Columbia University in New York, she finds that even she looks as small as the town she left behind. Add to that is the complex on-off relationship with Marcus, who has chosen to tread an alternative approach to life.

In book 4, Jessica Darling chooses to make her life without Marcus. It’s not a spoiler, I think this is a plus in the Jessica Darling series – book 5, she encounters Marcus again. They don’t end up together, but they finally understand what it is that has kept them together for all that time.

The Jessica Darling series was lent to me at an interesting time. I had a Marcus, one I’m still coming to terms with. It is one of those things a friend and I often agree to be, “when smart people become stupid”. I’m not ashamed to own up to my smarts, but I know I have HUGE potholes in my rationale.

I always appreciate female leads who don’t have to be right all the time. That is more real to me than someone who actually makes the dream of having it all. I only know one person who finally had it all, and it was a lifetime struggle for her. I like that the series writes about the struggle. Jessica Darling is often unsatisfied, but it rings true. It helps that McCafferty made it so timely: she did her research and grounded it very well into the time it was written.

Everything just read so well and felt so real. I still read it from time to time when hit by nostalgia, or confusion.

Part of the 30 Day Writing Meme. Next is Day 14: A Non-fictional book.

[Writing Meme] Day 4: Your Favorite Book

I was a funny kid. I was more enamored by a list of banned books than I was by any best seller or recommended library list. Harriet the Spy caught my eye on a list of banned books in one of those almanacs. I was intrigued about the story of the spunky young kid who writes notes about other people. My first writing workshop with Teacher Maya Jacinto used an excerpt from Harriet as an example for worldbuilding, and a few months later I managed to find a copy from a boutique bookstore.

I had this vague notion of wanting to be a writer, and I automatically took to anything that talked about writing. I was eleven years old at the time and didn’t really understand the emotional range and complications Harriet went through, even though we were about the same age. I realized later that I probably saw myself through Harriet: the awkward kid who wrote a lot and were open to a lot of things my peers weren’t open to. At the time I started reading Harrier the Spy I really was growing up, and growing out from my colleagues. My elementary school was one of those most students stayed in from kindergarten through grade 7. I got the feeling, though I couldn’t quite put it to words at the time, that change was not something my peers were open to. I didn’t feel free to try new things, and in the few times I did I wasn’t prepared for the ridicule and criticism that followed.

It took a few reads for me to get Harriet, and a few more years before I really understood how much the book taught me. To this day I read the book when I feel that I’m in an awkward place, or when I’m about to come face-to-face with dangerous, beautiful truth.

Part of the 30 Day Writing Meme. Next is Day 5: Your Favorite Quote.

Stream of Consciousness

J.D. Salinger Dies at 91. R.I.P.

I survived the miseries of high school by being schmartsy. It helped that my dark period in literacy (marked by Sweet Valley Kids, Twins, and Babysitter’s Club) hit me when I was 9. When I entered high school at 14, not wanting to call attention to myself, and finding most of my colleagues petty with their need for boyfriends, attention, what have you’s, I used intellectual snobbery to make up for my insecurities. I started reading “real” books as opposed to the romance novel drivel that my classmates preferred. Jessica Zafra was the main protein of my bitchery, and then there was Holden Caulfield in Catcher of the Rye. I found comfort in his criticism of “phonies”, it served as my prozac because I wasn’t psychologically damaged enough for medication.

Several years and a lit-related degree later, I figured that if ‘Catcher’ were published today, I would have dismissed it as another published blog. Still, it served its purpose, it was the one friend that I felt understood me when nobody else did. I know that other angsty, angry teenagers feel the same way.

Thanks J.D. Salinger, for being one of the few highlights of early high school. While my books and outlook on life have changed, that never will.