Thursday, August 28, 2014

Summer Reading

My Dad and Wicked Stepmother moved to California a few months ago.

They had been living a mere half-an-hour away from my home in Salt Lake City, Utah for more years than I could count . . . their home was where I lived during my final two years in high school, and where I knew I could always find shelter, good food, laughter, and love whenever I needed it.

Since my early teen years, my Dad & Judy have been two of my most trusted mentors, advice-givers, film & literature critics & connoisseurs, life-supporters, and, perhaps best of all, friends. They have been supportive, and often even nonchalant & unfazed, during many of my most humiliating growing-up years. They have taught me not only to love living life to its brim, but to express that love for life with a wisdom, grace, and calm confidence I can only hope to emulate.

Their relationship has served as a beacon of hope through difficult relationships I've come through, and their strength, creativity, and passion for learning have inspired me to live my life in stronger, more creative, and more passionate ways. I am sure they'll never fully know the gratitude I hold for them. How can we, as children, ever fully show our parents the measure of gratitude that would ever be commensurate to what they have given us in love & support, through all the hardest times of our lives, let alone for the one gift they gave us, to which no other gift can compare -- Life?

My Dad gave me life originally, along with my Mom, and he has continued to give me all the life worth living that he has had to offer. And Judy, knowingly or not, gave me life again, through junior high & high school, by recognizing symptoms of depression and anxiety that, had they gone untreated, could have resulted in the gravest of outcomes. The teenage years are times of hardship, confusion, painful transition, and growth -- for every teen, and for every parent! So I know how much I truly have to be grateful for, with these two loving parents for friends.

Their home, now in California, will continue to be a place where I can find shelter, good food, laughter, and love for many years to come, so there is no mourning necessary! Of course, I miss them dearly. But I also have the pleasure of talking with them often, and now having a great excuse to vacation near Yosemite National Park.

One of the final requests I made of my Dad before he moved away, was that he let me in on his reading lists. My Dad is an exceptionally talented artist, writer, and computer graphic designer. One of his many creative endeavors of late is his blog on writing, which he calls The Leaky Pen 2.0. It's this awesome collection of thoughts, inspiration, advice, and encouragement for writers of all stripes. Whether you write news articles, blogs, humor columns, screenplays, fiction, non-fiction, or anything else, The Leaky Pen offers jump-starts to creativity in every way imaginable. I love reading every post, thinking about what he might come up with next, and, most of all, learning about what all the famous writers he spotlights have (or had) to say about writing.

So this summer, I've gotten in on the action! Dad told me the next author he would be spotlighting (he writes about one author a month, to honor them in the month they were born) was George Orwell, and the book he would be reading was "Animal Farm." I was thrilled, since I loved reading "1984" (once in high school and again as an adult) and had always been curious about Orwell's other work. It was extremely enjoyable to plow right through that one, as short as it was, and to laugh with my Dad on the phone about every genius thing the Pigs had said.

After Animal Farm (which was a blast to read aloud with friends, by the way), we tackled "The Sun Also Rises," by Ernest Hemingway. This was a surprisingly enjoyable read, since I hated it for the first few chapters. The writing felt bland, a bit like the main character was simply writing laundry-lists of what had happened to him day by day . . . "I went to work. This guy came to visit me. I tried to get rid of him by taking him out to coffee and hinting I needed to get back to work. He didn't take the hint and followed me back up to my office. Then we went out to eat. Then these other people met up with us."

Had I not been reading this one alongside my Dad, I probably would have put it out of sight, out of mind, shortly after opening it to give it a chance. However, I was surprised to find, a few chapters in, that I legitimately cared what on earth was going to happen to the laundry-list guy, the annoying fellow following him around, as well as the other characters (one feisty woman in particular, much more interesting to me than the main guy) he met/interacted with along his way.

The bull fights were intriguingly disturbing to read about, and there were surprising developments and increasingly entertaining dialogues as the novel continued. Excellent read.

Now, I've got to admit I'm no horror fan. So, for my Dad's sake, I legitimately tried to get interested in H.P. Lovecraft's short stories. I checked out a beautiful collection of Lovecraft's writing from The Murray Library, which, in the midst of the flooring project that's been going on here in my apartment, I promptly lost.

Don't worry, I'm happy to donate the replacement cost of the book to the local library so others can enjoy Lovecraft's work! I'm sure it'll turn up around here someday, in which case maybe I'll have a good gift for my Dad, lover of horror books & films that he is. I only made it about halfway through "The Call of Cthulhu," before misplacing my copy, which was, admittedly, quite an enjoyable read. I found it similar to Shelley's "Frankenstein," or Stevenson's "The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde," both of which I enjoyed immensely, so I'm sure I will like it when I eventually do finish it.

As for the final book of the summer, we've only just begun reading it this week. But so far, this one is calling for the most calling! What I mean is, when I finally called to admit I hadn't finished "The Call of Cthulhu," my Dad sort of brushed that aside to say that the next author and title is William Faulkner's "The Sound and the Fury," which pronouncement he followed with, "Go and get it. I need to talk to you about it." I laughed, said I would check it out that day, and call him the next. That was one of our briefer phone calls this summer, but it was followed up two days later by the following:

*Ring, Ring*

Lauren: "Hi, how are you doing?"

*angry pause*

Elaine: "I am halfway through The Sound and the Fury. How the hell do you THINK I am doing?"

*hearty laughter followed by intense, possibly hour-long conversation, including much referencing and quoting and reading aloud of passages we had both read thus far, and lots of good-natured yet frustrated bantering back-and-forth regarding character's names, relationships to other characters, and genders*

We then agreed to keep reading, taking notes, and paying attention to certain things the other had brought to attention, and I proceeded to start the book over from page one (for the third time).

Two days later, I called again, and this time, I am a bit further than him, so now I know exactly how he feels and I'm the one saying, "Read more, now! I need to talk to you about it!"

So, if you're looking for an incredibly tantalizing, challenging-to-understand, yet enchanting and miraculous book, where you'll be asking yourself, "HOW did Faulkner WRITE this!?" from page one on through, pick up "The Sound and the Fury!" Now. Then call me. 801-654-7614. We need to talk about it.

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