I originally picked up Wolf in White Van because of John Darnielle. I am a big Mountain Goats fan and I figured if the book was anywhere near as lyrical and poetic as their songs, it would be worth the read. I also bought it when I was in Vancouver, so thanks Canada!
This novel is everything I hoped it would be: beautiful writing and a compelling plot explored in a nonlinear narrative. It studies the truths of being alone, the judging eyes of society, and the gaping hole within us all.
At the age of seventeen, Sean Phillips suffered a disfiguring injury in an unnamed accident that remains a mystery through much of the book, leading him to a hermit’s life of isolation. As a way to fill the gaping hours, Sean creates the Trace Italian, a world of his invention that eventually becomes a mail-in text adventure game taking place in a dystopian, post-apocalyptic universe, as well as becoming a steady source of income and thereby a small modicum of independence. There his imagination stretches wide, creating a dark and adventurous world for himself and others to explore. Many things happen over the course of the novel. We find out about Sean and how he feels about himself and the world around him; how he copes with the way people look at him. We fully inhabit Sean’s mind, seeing through his eyes as he examines himself in relation to his family, his game, his past, and the strangers who invite themselves into his life via the Trace. When two young explorers of the Trace take their game play into reality, Sean’s life is rocked by tragedy and his culpability in those events. This misfortune sends him spiraling back into his own past and ultimately inspecting the accident from which all subsequent events emerge.
Think 1920s, superb animation, musical interludes, and some of the wittiest and most creative writing you’ve heard in a long while and you will start to get the gist of Over the Garden Wall, my new favorite thing. Over the GardenWall is a ten episode animated mini series created by Patrick McHale and released on Cartoon Network. The total run time if you binge watch it in its entirety (which I have done multiple times) is about an hour and forty minutes. Each episode is a ten minute bundle of joy and strangeness.
The show follows two brothers, Wirt and Greg, who are lost in the Unknown, a strange place inhabited by strange creatures, magic, darkness, and intrigue. It has a faerie tale/fable-like quality to the narrative and a humor that is on point. Greg and Wirt are hands down some of the funniest and most endearing characters I have had the pleasure of watching in a long time. The basic premise is that the boys are lost in the Unknown and are trying to find their way home. There is a scary and mysterious Beast that must be avoided, a vaguely intimidating and cryptic woodsman, a talking bluebird, and a whole host of amusing and engaging characters and locales from episode to episode.
Weeks after watching it, I still find myself thinking about its story, laughing at its jokes, and quoting its dialogue (“You have beautiful eyes”). Wirt is something of a stick in the mud, which acts as a perfect foil for Greg’s genuine and carefree nature. Greg is positively a whimsical ball of bizarre sunshine and I love it. The show begins as a light but vaguely twisted tale and gets increasingly dark and serious in the most wonderful and compelling way. At its core, it is a magnificent story about love, brotherhood, and responsibility, but it is surrounded by a palatable wrapper of jokes, fab dialogue, and excellent pacing. It is a true work of art and I cannot recommend it enough.
In other news, today (19 January) is my twenty-fourth birthday. I feel a little bit weird about turning twenty-four. It feels strange in a way no other birthday has to date. I am in my “mid-twenties.” I am hurtling toward adulthood like a bottle rocket. This birthday comes with the unsettling expectation that I should really start to get a grasp on what I want to do with my life. I feel a need to assess what I’ve been doing and what I’m planning.
I’ve been out of school for a little over two years and I’ve really struggled with that. I think it has taken me all of that time to really come to terms with what my postgrad life is and what I can do with it. I write now, daily. I do yoga and think about fitness. I read like it’s my job (sometimes it is my job). I take free online classes when I can and play the ukulele (badly). Just because I’m no longer in school does not mean my life has to be absent of structure, wonderful structure which I love and cherish like few other things on this planet. I have been spending all this time building my own life framework. Neil has been a huge help in that regard as one of the most hardworking and dedicated people I know. He is quite the inspiration and motivator.
I do not have anything figured out. I have been working on a novel that is really just god awful terrible. It kind of gets me down sometimes, but I am really enjoying the process of writing and getting that baby out of my system, even if it is a crying, horrifying infant. I just have to keep up my momentum in writing and in life. There’s really no need to slow down.
I’ve had a wonderful birthday weekend: Friday night dancing, Saturday night house party with my closest friends, Sunday night dinner with my family, and today. My birthday. Relaxing, writing, reading, tea drinking, light shopping. Brunch/lunch. I am immensely grateful for all the wonderful people in my life. I feel so, so, so much love. Thank you all. ❤
I am going to try really hard not to fangirl over Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell. But it’s going to be VERY difficult.
I loved this book. I loved it the way you love the way the sun is all warm and sleepy on a Sunday morning or how cozy your favorite blanket is on a cold winter night or how delicious a warm cup of tea is with just the right amount of milk and sugar. This was not so much reading as falling into a book, letting it catch you. It felt like home. This book is comfort food.
Fangirl explores the idea of a “fandom,” the ties of family, and what it means to grow up. In this world, Cather Avery, more commonly known as Cath, and her twin sister Wren are starting their first semester of college. Wren is, as Cath categorizes her in her mind, “the Cool One,” which in turn makes Cath the not cool one. For the first time in their lives, she and Wren won’t be constantly together, after Wren insisted they not share a room. With a sister who is distant and off having “adventures,” not at all involving writing Simon Snow fanfiction or being a general nerdy hermit, Cath is set adrift, trying to figure out how to navigate a temperamental roommate and the new cast of characters college has the tendency to thrust upon us. In this she must figure out how to hold onto what she loves and who she wants to be, including the world of Simon Snow.
I am loathe to combine reviews. Each book is its own special snowflake and deserves its very own posting, but I am rather behind on this reviewing business. The books have been piling up and instead of letting them go stale in my memory, I’m going to blurt out all my opinions and feelings until we are nice and caught up. Plus, these two were reads for my work book club, so I think they complement each other nicely. Savvy? Brilliant.
The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt is behemoth. That is not an exaggeration. Clocking in at 771 pages, it is a long novel that doubles as a weapon in precarious situations. I was a little wary of The Goldfinch. Most of the time, contemporary fiction has a tendency to rub me the wrong way. Boy was I wrong.
The story follows the life of a boy, Theo Decker. At the age of thirteen, his life is rocked by incomprehensible tragedy that results in the loss of his mother, a nasty dose of post-traumatic stress disorder, and the general unmooring of the easy New York lifestyle that he knew before. The charm of the novel is in its unraveling of story as Theo grows up, so I do not want to say too much in terms of plot. I will say it is a story about art and what it means to people and how it is capable of arresting one’s heart. It is also about the fluidity of friends and family, criminal underworlds, and the ache of love. It is something of a coming of age tale or perhaps a “coming to terms” tale would be a more appropriate description.
I’m going to be perfectly honest. The year 2014 was not great for me. I was sick and frustrated for most of it, but all that being considered, some pretty amazing things happened and I got to share my time with some of the most wonderful and dear people that I know. So, in the spirit of the new year, let us consider this past one:
– I had my one year anniversary at the AMS and was grateful.
– I watched Frozen and had my life forever changed.
– I saw Neutral Milk Hotel at the Orpheum and it was insane.
– I turned 23.
– I watched Veronica Mars in its entirety for the first time ever.
– I saw Groundhog Day for the first time and also simultaneously in theaters.
– We didn’t have working heat in the apartment for a full forty-eight hour period.
– I saw a therapist for a little while.
– I started getting into yoga.
– I scalded my forearm.
– I went through the ordeal that is a colonoscopy and it was awful.
– Neil found work and all our hopes were answered.
– We found two amazing new roommates and friends.
– The power weirdly went off in half our apartment for a couple of days.
– Many parties were had of the friend, Halloween, Christmas, New Year, and other variety.
– I went to the New England Aquarium.
– I copyedited my first book, Climate Conundrums by Bill Gail.
– I spent a loooooot of money at Whole Foods (like a lot).
– Justin and I released our Disney cover album.
– I took an online class about the Lord of the Rings.
– I bought a new laptop.
– I found the world’s greatest primary care physician, gastrointestinal specialist, and nutritionist and they are all together slowly saving my life.
– I went to the beach and got stung by a jellyfish, which was weird and painful, but also kind of awesome.
– I started a game club at work.
– I started the FODMAP diet and went gluten free, which has been challenging but helpful.
– I celebrated my two year anniversary with Neil and I cannot express how much I ardently admire and love him and value his companionship, support, and affection.
– Neil finished his book and I helped him show his work at MICE and we met a really cool dude named Evan.
– I spoke words to Maki Naro.
– I had an upper endoscopy and was really scared, but it all worked out for the best.
– Neil and I had a ballin’ Halloween costume (Luke and Leia on Hoth)
– We went to Vancouver and it was breathtaking and phenomenal.
– Neil showed his work at Northeast Comic Con with Evan (and I helped!).
– I went to New York to visit my friend Ross.
– I had many friends leave Boston and come to visit. Each meeting and parting has been heart wrenching and warming, respectively.
– I protested on the streets of Boston because #blacklivesmatter
– I cooked Christmas dinner and did not burn the house down. (Also pies).
– I read 43 and 98/100th books (see below).
There is probably more, little moments that I couldn’t quite fish out of my memory right now. There was a lot of laughter and fun among the pain and strangeness. I persevered and I have a new hope for the future that I certainly did not have at this time last year. I am glad to have lived through all of it because with the bad, there has been some wonderful moments. Thanks for hanging in with me. Expect more book reviews and life musings in 2015.
Until next time!
If you want to see the full book list, click below!