He Lives Inside My Mouth And Tells Me What To Say

This week’s Saturday Book Club post focuses on one of two books authored by Joyce Carol Oates that I read last year.  I’ll start by saying that the premise was very intriguing, but the overall execution could have been better.  I wouldn’t say I was necessary let down by the novel, but it wasn’t entirely what I expected when I initially picked it up.

9780865381162.OL

Image courtesy of booksarethenewblack.com.

Expensive People by Joyce Carol Oates

243 pages (including afterword)

The novel opens with the following:

I was a child murderer.

I don’t mean child-murderer, though that’s an idea.  I mean child murderer, that is, a murderer who happens to be a child, or a child who happens to be a murderer.

This is just the type of book I love!  The novel is, like most things Oates writes, very dark.  As the above excerpt indicates, Expensive People is written from the point of view of a man who committed murder at a very early age.  He actually isn’t that old as he’s writing this “memoir” of sorts … I can’t remember for certain if he ever specifies his exact age, but he alludes to the fact that he’s either late teens (18 or 19) or early to mid-20s (20-25).  Most likely he’s younger than I am now.

As a narrator, he’s completely unreliable … The majority of the novel is told in flashbacks from his life as a 10-year-old boy living in an upper middle class suburban neighborhood with his mother, a gorgeous and worldly Russian author, and his father, a sometimes bumbling but generally good-natured businessman.  He remembers things as he wants to … So much so that the reader is often questioning whether or not events actually happened, people and places actually existed, etc.

Joyce Carol Oates does an excellent job of bringing the characters and scenery to life, and the novel succeeds as a chilling look at the darker side of suburbia.  Despite the premise, Expensive People isn’t a thriller.  It’s just … Sad.  A lot of the action centers around the narrator’s relationship (or lack thereof) with his mother.  His most burning desire at the tender age of 10 is to be noticed by his mother … Truly loved by her.  Instead, he is often cast aside as she attempts to climb the social ladder, preferring to hobnob with other affluent suburbanites and writers.  As if this weren’t bad enough, she is often physically absent as well … The narrator mentions she has left the family a few times during his short life in an attempt to flee her marriage and responsibilities as a mother.

My main complaint about this book is the overuse of flowery language.  While Oates writes beautifully, sometimes this type of description detracts from the story.  Additionally, since this is told in first person, the narrator often rambles on endlessly about random things that have nothing to do with anything.  These sections could easily have been omitted (or, at the very least, heavily edited), and the story would be just as good, if not better.

There is a short story (supposedly written by the narrator’s mother) inserted about halfway through the novel as well, but I actually really enjoyed that.  Joyce Carol Oates is known for her short stories (check out my personal favorite, “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?”), and the one included in this novel, “The Molesters,” was both disturbing and intriguing.  While one might think that a short story in the middle of a novel would take the focus off the main plot, this actually provided some insight into both the mother and the narrator.  (Or, at least, it did according to him as he proceeds to list out all the ways in which the story affected him and was meant to be “symbolic” and all that.)

I will probably reread Expensive People in the future.  I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it to others, though if you’re a fan of Joyce Carol Oates’ other work, I’d definitely say it’s worth a look.  It’s not that it’s a bad book (though, as I mentioned earlier, I was slightly disappointed by the way things played out), it’s just not something I think would appeal to everyone.

I would give Expensive People THREE STARS.  If this was the first book I’d read by Oates, it may have received a higher rating … But I think she’s written better things.  Overall, though, the book was enjoyable and thought provoking.

Advertisements

Fear Is Strong And Love’s For Everyone Who Isn’t Me

I’m going to be completely honest … I had no idea what I wanted to write about today.  I still don’t.

Anyone who writes, whether it’s something for school, for fun, or professionally, experiences writer’s block now and then.  I know I do more than I’d care to admit.

I get incredibly frustrated when this happens because there’s not really much I can do about it.  I either start searching online for some inspiration or do what I’m doing now and force myself to sit down and start typing.  I can’t explain why, but sometimes I just feel compelled to write.  It doesn’t matter what I say really … I just need to say something.

I don’t think this is the best method when it comes to blogging, though.  People want to read a post of substance … Or at least something funny, interesting, etc.  So why am I writing this now?  Because I want anyone reading this to know that I’m human.  I’m not always full of ideas.  I don’t always have something clever to say.  Sometimes I’m just a woman sitting in front of her computer thinking, “Why can’t I come up with anything?  What the hell am I going to write about?”

So if you were hoping for a great post today, I’m sorry to disappoint.  However, if you’re a fellow blogger (or just someone who enjoys writing), I’m sure you can at least relate to this.

I’ll leave you now with a random funny picture because, well, why not?  (It’s probably better than this entire post anyway!)

296027_10151699384750030_1609899935_n

I Know Life Would Be Different If I Held On

I’ve been very very hesitant to post any of the poetry/song lyrics (they’re often one in the same to me) I’ve written in this blog.  I’ve shared some of my work in the past, but never in such an easily accessible public forum.  I did have a deviantART account way back in the day (I think it’s probably still active, though I’m not), but for some reason I felt more anonymous on that site.  It’s odd that I say that, because several of my artsy real life friends and acquaintances found me on deviantART … So how anonymous could it be?  (Not to mention the fact that I had a user picture of myself on my main page.  But whatever.)

Anyway, that being said, I haven’t really written any poetry in a long time.  When I say a long time, I mean a long time … As in several years.  I used to write all the time, though.  It was the perfect outlet for my anger, depression, anxiety, and frustration.  I haven’t felt moved to write in that way for a while (hence the not writing anything new for several years), but I’m hoping that by exposing this part of myself here, I’ll be inspired to pick it up again.  I don’t miss the pain I felt when I wrote these words, but I do miss the writing.

As is probably obvious (at least if you’re a fan), the piece I’ll be sharing today was inspired by Bright Eyes.  I’ve written a lot of musically inspired pieces over the years, and this is actually one of my favorites.  I wrote in song format (verse, chorus, verse, chorus, bridge, verse, chorus), but I’ve never attempted to put it to music.  Maybe one day.

One last note before I share … I wrote this about a specific person and situation.  This was written almost a year before I met Eric (I was 21), and I was dealing with a lot of issues in many areas of my life at the time.  As you’ll likely notice as you read, my love life was a complete disaster.  And while that was really shitty at the time, it made for some of what I consider to be my best work.

“Sing Me Self-Destruction”

Written on 07-23-2006

You’re too tired now to think that far ahead                                                                              

As you pull me in close, forgetting what we’ve said                                                                 

You can’t even care who has been here before                                                                         

As your tongue touches mine and I beg you for more

I wonder if we’re incapable of falling in love

Although I know this is more than just some easy fuck

You sing me self-destruction and I hum along

Believing that some day I might write the ending to your song

I’m pressed against you in the small space of your car

Fingertips roaming, not caring how it got this far

All logic and reason disappear with you

‘Cause I know you love to hurt as much as I do

I wonder if we’re incapable of falling in love

Although I know this is more than just some easy fuck

You sing me self-destruction and I hum along

Believing that some day I might write the ending to your song

Maybe we’re in over our heads this time

But something about this just feels right

So we give in to our attraction and it all falls into place

Creating memories that may never be erased

I’m on the verge of a breakdown yet again

The craving hits hard and I need you inside my skin

You’ve got your own problems, so you’re not around

To scrape me off the pavement when I’m coming down

I wonder if we’re incapable of falling in love

Although I know this is more than just some easy fuck

You sing me self-destruction and I hum along

Believing that some day I might write the ending to your song

The Feeling When It All Works Out

In an earlier post, I wrote about searching for wedding inspiration.  In that post, I spent a lot of time talking about the things we wouldn’t like, but not much time talking about the things we would like.  But maybe that’s because we really didn’t know.

We set up a meeting with our wedding coordinator a few weeks after I chose my wedding dress to go over some general ideas for wedding decor.  Unfortunately, the first part of the meeting went a little something like this:

Wedding Coordinator: What do you guys think about this?  (Said as she shows us a huge vase filled with flowers.)

Me: Ummm … It’s pretty big.  I don’t want anything that will obstruct guests’ views of one another.

Eric: Yeah, it’s too much.

Wedding Coordinator: Okay … What about this?  (Said as something smaller but very blingy is pulled out.)

Eric: I hate shiny shit.

Me: Yeah, I think we were hoping for something more elegant and less over the top.

Wedding Coordinator: Oh okay.  Well … Maybe we should look at some color options and come back to centerpieces.  It might help me get a better idea of what you’re looking for.

And as she pulls out color swatch after color swatch, our reactions vary from “That’s not really what we had in mind,” to “Ugh, I hate that color!”  

I’m sure we weren’t exactly a treat to work with.  We’re not rude or mean people by any means, but we’re pretty vocal about what we do and don’t like … Especially if we’re paying big money for it!

The only problem?  We seemed to hate everything.  It wasn’t that they didn’t have nice things to offer … It was just that nothing really screamed “us.”

And then the wedding coordinator started asking about my dress.  Eric told me I should show her my Pinterest wedding board (yes, he actually knows and cares about what that is!).  And somehow things just clicked.

Image

Image courtesy of http://www.indiegamemag.com.

Suddenly we were talking about the fact that I feel like a fairy princess running through an enchanted forest in my wedding dress.  (This may sound completely ridiculous, but it’s really how I feel when I put it on.  Don’t judge!)  My gown is very unique in that it’s a combination of whimsical and vintage styles with a few modern touches.  A lot of ideas started being thrown around, and we realized that being “us” meant not having one specific theme.  Instead, it means we’ll be incorporating a variety of ideas and styles we like and hope we can achieve an overall cohesive look and feel.

The meeting turned out to be incredibly productive.  Here’s what we decided we liked:

Enchanted Forest

Image

Image courtesy of http://www.newenglandfineliving.com.

Vintage

Image

Image courtesy of amysweddingevents.com.

Natural/Semi-Rustic

Image

Image courtesy of blog.koyalwholesale.com.

Whimsical

Image

I’m actually not sure where this picture is from.  I saved it months ago, and I couldn’t find it (even using reverse image lookup on Google).

Floral Accents

Image

Image courtesy of http://www.flower-arrangement-advisor.com.

Lanterns

Image

Image courtesy of http://www.littlepinkbook.co.za.

I know I posted some of these things in a previous entry, but the point here is that we really started to envision what our wedding might look like … And that was pretty exciting!  Of course things will be done differently … These are simply some inspiration pictures.

I feel like we’re all over the place with our ideas, but I do think we can get it to mesh … Somehow.

So, in closing, if someone asks me what our wedding theme is, the response will go something like, “Well, we have a lot of ideas.  We want everything to have kind of a whimsical, enchanted forest, natural/rustic, vintage feel with some floral accents and lanterns thrown in.  We’re doing a lot of different things, but it should be very “us.””

Or, more likely, I’ll just say, “Our theme is random shit we like.” 

Give Me An Hour And I’ll Give You Your Dreams

This week’s recipe came from the website Taste of Home.  This is one of my favorite online recipe resources because they literally have hundreds to thousands of recipes for whatever keyword you search.

Eric and I bought a bunch of tilapia fillets at Costco fairly recently.  We divided them up into separate freezer bags and then put them aside for future meals.  Since we had so much tilapia on hand, I started searching for recipes we could use it in.  I came across this recipe, and it sounded perfect.  We already had most of the ingredients anyway, so that made it sound even more appealing!

photo copy

This is a “before” picture.  I thought it actually looked kind of nice, so I took a quick picture before shoving it in the oven.  Personal photo.

Tilapia Florentine

Recipe taken from Taste of Home (www.tasteofhome.com)

Adapted by me!

Ingredient List:

  • Approximately 6 oz. fresh baby spinach
  • 6 tsp olive oil, divided
  • 4 tilapia fillets, approximately 4 oz. each
  • 1 lemon (I actually completely forgot to add the lemon juice this time and it was fine.  I will definitely try adding it next time, though, to add some additional flavor.)
  • 1 tsp garlic salt
  • 1 tsp Mrs. Dash Original Blend seasoning
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 cup low fat ricotta cheese
  • 1/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese

Instructions:

1.) In a large nonstick skillet, cook fresh spinach in approximately 4 tsp olive oil until wilted; drain.

2.) Place tilapia fillets in a greased 13×9 baking dish.

3.) Drizzle fillets with lemon juice (a step I forgot this time!), and approximately 2 tsp olive oil.

4.) In a small mixing bowl, combine the egg, ricotta cheese, and spinach.  Sprinkle with garlic salt and Mrs. Dash Original Blend seasoning, and mix thoroughly.

5.) Spoon cheese, egg, and seasoning mixture over the fillets.  You should be able to spread about the same amount on each fillet.

6.) Bake at 375 degrees for 15-20 minutes, or until fish flakes easily with a fork.

7.) Enjoy!  I served this with a side of cooked carrots (seasoned with a little dill and garlic salt) and what I call Parmesan Pea Rice Medley (I definitely made that name up, and I’m sure you can tell).  I’ll be sharing the recipe for this dish next week, so stay tuned for that!

photo

The finished product!  It was delicious.  Personal photo.

Miles Away, There’s Hopeless Smiles Brighter Than Mine

I haven’t done a Music Monday post focusing on one specific album for a while, so I thought today would be the perfect time to do that.

The first time I made a post like this, it was my second time posting on this blog, and I focused on my favorite musician of all time, Elliott Smith.  I considered writing about another of his albums today, but decided that I’d focus on another band this time.  (Trust me, you’ll hear more about my love for Elliott Smith as I continue to update my blog!)

Today I’ll be writing about a band that I’ve enjoyed since my younger years (think middle school/high school).  This is a band I’ve always felt was somewhat underrated, though they admittedly enjoyed quite a bit of success early in their career.  The album I’ll be focusing on today I’d also consider to be underrated … I literally have one friend who agrees with me that it’s an amazing piece of work.  It may surprise many of you to learn that I really like this band (and still listen to them pretty regularly).

The band I’m talking about is Silverchair.  If you’re thinking of the trio from Australia who started off with a bang, releasing Frogstomp (which went on to hit #1 in Australia and New Zealand as well as the U.S. top 10) when they were in their early teens, you’re thinking of the right band.

Image

Did I mention they’re also pretty cute?  Because, you know, they are.  Some of my earliest schoolgirl crushes were on these three talented gentlemen.  (They don’t look quite like this anymore, but they’re all still handsome.  This picture is from around the time the album I’m discussing today was released.)  Image courtesy of http://www.100xr.com.

I’m not planning to discuss Frogstomp today, though.  Many people are familiar with a lot of the songs included on that album, and it obviously wasn’t “underrated” at all.  Today I’m writing about their album Diorama, which was released in 2002.

Image

The flash actually made this album cover look really cool.  Personal photo.

As with my post on Elliott Smith’s XO, I wanted to list out my personal favorite tracks from Diorama.  I also wanted to share my favorite lines from each of these songs.  Hopefully this post will inspire you to check this album out if you’re not already familiar with it.

* Tuna In The Brine

Personal Favorite Line(s): The light in my darkest hour is fear/Denies me of anything good/So don’t lose your heart, you’ll need it

* One Way Mule

Personal Favorite Line(s): Distant emotion hides a concrete wall/Naked and anchored, I’ll climb right back to you/And love me for my mind, ’cause I’m a dangerous heart

* My Favourite Thing

Personal Favorite Line(s): You’re my favorite, the one that I love/The one, so I’d die for your love/And I feel like letting go

* The Lever

Personal Favorite Line(s): I’d catch you when you fall, but you’re falling all the time

* Luv Your Life

Personal Favorite Line(s): Flinch against the fire, but this ain’t winter/And I’m all by myself, the way I want to be/Where I’m content to be, to be all by myself/And frozen eyes are bound to melt

This really is an overall gorgeous album.  Daniel Johns has an amazingly beautiful voice, one I’m still in awe of years after I first heard it.  I literally get chills every time I hear him sing the repeated line “And I feel like letting go” in “My Favourite Thing.”

This brings me to my final note on Diorama … The album liner notes read as follows (which I found really interesting):

“Diorama” was made without using pitch correction software.  This technology ‘corrects’ notes that are sung or played out of tune and it has become increasingly popular in recent years.  Silverchair choose not to use this computer software on their albums as it’s their personal belief that such artificial perfection diminishes music.

You Can Go, Each Day Takes You Someplace I Can’t Find … But Don’t Leave My Mind

This is my 50th post on Can’t Believe How Strange It Is To Be Anything At All …  50th!  I can’t believe I’ve already written so much.  I’m actually rather proud of myself for sticking with this.  There have definitely been times that I’ve thought, “Does it even matter if I post today?  Does anyone even read this thing?”  But then I remember the people who have liked posts and the people who stumbled across my blog and thought it was interesting enough to follow (not to mention the fact that my fiancé also reads it pretty regularly and has commented that he enjoys it) … And that makes me want to keep it up.  I love writing, so I’d probably continue blogging even if no one was interested in what I have to say.  But knowing that people are interested makes it more rewarding, and makes me want to push myself to come up with new topics, great recipes, and just generally share more about myself.

So, if you’re reading this now, I want to say thank you.

I’m going to continue my post today with the next list on the 10 day blogging challenge.  Again, this could be a Tell All Thursday post, but I’ve decided to share it today instead.

This week’s list: 8 Ways To Win My Heart

8.) A sense of adventure.  I’m not saying that a guy has to be willing to skydive with me or anything (though that would be cool), but he has to be willing to step outside his comfort zone to try new things.  Eric is definitely this type of guy, and it’s something I have continued to love and appreciate about him over the years.  

7.) A more laid-back personality.  I’m not afraid to admit that I am completely high-strung.  I have issues with anxiety, depression, and OCD.  I’ve had relationships with guys who were similar, and while it was nice that they genuinely understood some of the issues I was dealing with, it made for a completely unbalanced and overly emotional relationship.  I need to be with someone who balances me out.  Eric is one of the most laid-back people I know, and it really helps me calm down a lot of the time!

6.) Strong family ties.  I live far away from my family, but I still consider myself to be very close with them.  I do have some family issues (mainly with my dad and his side of the family, all of whom are no longer part of my life for personal reasons), but overall I’d rank family as one of the most important things to me.  It’s one thing if someone has an awful, abusive family … Of course I wouldn’t want them to subject themselves to that sort of thing.  But if your family is nice, I think it’s great if you’re pretty close with them … Whether that means dinners together once a week, regular talking/texting/emailing … Whatever.  Eric is close with his family, and we both get along well with each others’ families (also important!).

5.) Similar political and social views.  I’ve dated guys in the past with very different views from mine, and that never worked out very well.  It was never something I asked on the first date or anything, but maybe I should have … It’s that important.  I have several friends with different political and social leanings (including a couple of my closest friends), and it’s never been an issue.  But here’s the thing … Friends can agree to disagree and move on.  When you’re in an intimate relationship with someone (and especially if you think you may potentially marry and have children with this person), you should probably be on the same page with most things.  Eric and I will be teaching our future children values and ideas, and we should probably be teaching them the same things.  Yes, they may grow up, think we’re crazy, and change their views.  That’s fine.  But I know the way I was raised has a lot to do with the way I perceive the world now.  

4.) A great sense of humor.  I can be a very goofy person.  I like to try to have fun with things, and some of the best memories I have are the times when I laughed so hard I couldn’t even breathe.  I need someone who can laugh with me.  I’ve definitely had boyfriends who seemed to hate everything.  They’d sigh and bitch about things all the time, and it was extremely frustrating.  I mean, we couldn’t even go out for a meal without Negative Nancy (or perhaps Negative Ned if it’s a guy?) over here having some sort of ridiculous complaint.  Ugh.  Eric has a great sense of humor, and is probably almost as goofy as I am.  We have so much fun together, and it’s nice to think that after we’ve been married for 10 years, 20 years, etc., we’ll probably still be laughing over silly things together.

3.) Ambition.  I don’t mean that a guy must be CEO of a Fortune 500 company or a partner at the biggest law firm in town in order to win me over.  But I expect some level of ambition from a significant other.  I consider myself a very ambitious person.  I’ve hit a few bumps along the way, as I changed my mind about what I actually wanted to do with the rest of my life a few times … But I’ve always wanted to better myself and succeed.  I have ideas about where I’d like to be in my career in the next 3-5 years, as well as in the next 5-10 years.  I’ve set several short term and long term goals for myself, and am working hard to achieve these goals.  Eric is a hard worker, and he is very successful at his current job.  I know he and I are very similar in that we’ve changed our minds about our career paths numerous times … But I also know that because of this, we’ll always support one another in major career decisions and will both work to be successful in our chosen fields.

2.) Intelligence.  I definitely don’t think I’m the most brilliant person in the world (far from it!), but I do know that I’m a smart woman.  I love learning, challenging myself, and having interesting discussions with others.  I think I surround myself with intelligent people because of this.  For example, I feel that my friends always have something new to bring to the table … I often come away from conversations with them feeling as though I’ve learned something new or been challenged to think about something in a different way.  It’s very refreshing.  Eric and I have great conversations as well.  I think we challenge each other to learn more about certain things and to perhaps see things from a new perspective.  I really think this allows us to both grow as individuals and as a couple.

1.) A kind heart.  None of these things even matter if you’re a complete dick.  Seriously.  I think some of these traits can lead a person to become cocky, and that’s just not attractive.  If a man has all of the above qualities and still manages to be generous, loving, loyal, honest, and kind, then he’s the real deal.  I feel incredibly lucky that I’ve managed to find someone who is all of these things (and so much more).  

And, just in case this post wasn’t sappy enough, here’s a random silly picture of Eric and I.  I think it was taken a couple of months or so ago:

Image

 

Cute?  Personal photo.