Monthly Archives: February 2013

ISBN: 13: 978-0-7858-2649-1

Myths and Legends From Cherokee Dances to Voodoo Trances

Myths and Legends From Cherokee Dances to Voodoo Trances

This past week was a busy one for me, and because of that I didn’t have the time to commit to reading Don Q. I went to my bookshelf in search of something I could quickly devour. What I found was Myths and Legends From Cherokee Dances To Voodoo Trances by John Pemberton. I forgot how much I loved mythology, the origins of a story, and the way tales shape our society.

Over the weekend, my friend K visited with her son L. They had an iPad with neat child friendly apps (very privileged, I know). While I was still figuring out how to turn the thing on, L, a two year old, went to town showing me the different apps and how to open and close them. One app in particular was that of Little Red Riding Hood. My friend told me that it was a new version of the old tale, and in this one the grandmother just gets tied up and locked in the closet by the wolf, where eventually the hunter cuts her free.

Husband reminded us of the older tale where the wolf eats the grandmother and the hunter cuts her out of his stomach. I liked the new tale because it was less violent, but Husband didn’t miss a beat—the older tale was much more memorable.

To me, the new version still contained the message and moral without the unnecessary violence. I found it to be a step of progress for society. What is it we really want to teach our children?

JP’s book had numerous myths and legends from all over the world, presented with glossy photos and illustrations. All the while I was reading, I kept thinking that people used to believe these stories—they lived their life by these morals and values. They actually thought thunder was from a god in the sky. They made sacrifices and held services to these deities who now have been forgotten.

They’re just tales woven into our subconscious.

Thanks to science, we don’t have to kill a virgin to make it rain.

I heard the Kanye West song, “No Church In The Wild,” for the first time this week and something about the lyrics struck me: (listen to the song here)

Human beings in a mob. What’s a mob to a king? What’s a king to a God? What’s a God to a non-believer who don’t believe in anything? Will he make it out alive? Alright, alright, no church in the wild.

Gods lose all of their power when we stop believing in them, but what then, happens to society? To the non-believer? Where do we find our new morals? In media? Family? Friends? If the legends are lost, a certain void appears, hence no church in the wild. No church, but does this really mean no morals? Or does it mean we invent a new king and a new God to mold to our current belief system?

Within the glossy pages of Myths and Legends From Cherokee Dances To Voodoo Trances one can discover the exact location of Timbuktu, that the Malaika is an East African spirit created from light and is very similar to an ‘angel’, it is more common for one who practices Voodoo to pray for rain than ask for revenge, the Blue Jay was depicted as a trickster in American legend, Japan had the female Izanami and the male Izanagi who brought the world into being, and none of this is strange, or wild, or crazy, if one can see that the common thread is humanity’s need to make sense of itself and preserve future generations.


Filed under Art, Books, Fiction, illustrations, Life, Literature, Writing

ISBN: 978-0-14-243723-0 (Part II)

Don Quixote by Cervantes

Don Quixote by Cervantes


It’s Don Quixote by Cervantes again this week. I’m halfway through the book, the end of Part I. I’m finding it hard to write about a book that I haven’t completely read—as I prefer to think about the whole story and how it fits into my life, then blog about it. Since I can’t do that yet, I’ll just share some more of my notes on the book:

1.)   Rocinante, DQ’s horse, is just as developed as Sancho or any other character in the novel.  It’s subtle, but the layering of R—when he appears, how he moves, makes him feel just as important to the story as the Barber or the Priest. I love it when animals become characters.

2.)   So it isn’t the masses who are to blame for demanding rubbish, but rather those who aren’t capable of providing them with anything else. Apparently, the debate between art and entertainment was raging hundreds of years ago. C goes into great detail, time and again, over this debate making the greatest case (thus far) for fiction that is both entertaining and of substance. Here’s one of my favorite lines: The subject you’ve broached, sir, the priest interrupted, has awoken my old loathing for these fashionable plays, which is as great as my loathing for books of chivalry, because whereas drama should, as Cicero puts it, be a mirror of human life, an exemplar of customs and an image of truth, these modern plays are just mirrors of absurdity, exemplars of folly and images of lewdness. This line is one of the most brilliant in the book because C has done just what the Priest describes, but somehow, by addressing it, he has also done so much more. In his own way, C creates a story that makes everyone involved in this topic utterly mad, the Priest for burning books (but enjoying the stories once he reads them) and DQ for living his tales.

3.)   And it’s all a big joke. Lines like this one pop up all the time: Others write their plays so thoughtlessly that the actors have to run away and hide after performances for fear of being punished. 

4.)   All this bounces back and forth between moments of truth: Showing that love can only be conquered by fleeing from it, and that nobody should engage with such a powerful enemy, because its human strength can only be defeated by divine might.

5.)   But as good as it is, it’s still a hard book to read. Every time C introduces a new character he goes into a backstory that can last ten to fifteen pages. He even freaking wrote a thirty-five page fictional story that the Priest reads aloud. You sort of just have to go with the breaks in the narration, or DQ’s storyline. You have to be like, cool a sonnet, or yes! An epitaph. You are, after all, following the mind of a madman . . . 



Filed under Art, Books, Fiction, humor, Life, Love, Poetry, Writing

ISBN: 13-978-0312-34202-9


Augusten Burroughs, A Wolf At The Table

Augusten Burroughs, A Wolf At The Table

First and foremost, Happy Valentine’s Day!

I took a break from Don Quixote this week to read A Wolf At The Table, A Memoir Of My Father by Augusten Burroughs because I started the first draft of my own memoir over the weekend. I’ve been thinking a lot about creative nonfiction and the difference between honesty and confession, the difference between art and therapy and art as therapy. I came across an article in Salon, “Salon’s Guide To Writing A Memoir,”

by the Salon staff that seemed to address all of the questions and hesitations I had about the genre.

Creative nonfiction is the most challenging genre for me to work because there is no narrator to hide behind like there is with fiction. Characters and narrators help me to keep the work at arm’s length, to maintain an air of professionalism that sometimes blurs when I step into the nonfiction realm.

I’ve seen nonfiction in it’s messy, rambling, confessional, diary first draft state—and here I’m talking about my own work—and what I wanted was to turn that into art, something that others could relate to and possibly learn from. It’s not enough just to be shocking for the sake of being shocking—I know that from my fiction. There has to be more, a story, and if not a story (because I’m not 100% sold on the idea that every book has to have a plot), a memory left behind that challenges the reader and shows us how the narrator has grown, changed, developed.

With memoir, this means taking a good look in the mirror, and asking myself repeatedly, “Why do I have this belief? Where does it stem from?” I have to step back and not judge myself as I come to certain conclusions, and I have to be honest with myself. Most importantly, I have to leave space for humanity; the fact that I make mistakes as do others. Judgment and opinion sort of have to sit on the back burner while I sort out the facts, which are mostly memories.

I watched Running With Scissors a long time ago, and the scene that broke me was the one near the end where Augusten eats a sandwich made by his ‘step-mother.’ It just put the whole story in perspective, for me. Everything built up to that scene.

Later, Husband and I listened to Possible Side Effects by AB on audiobook during a road trip. It helped to hear AB’s voice, his pauses, and the work spoken as it ought to be read. It was funny and mortifying, but most importantly, it was human.

Obviously, reading A Wolf At The Table, was a completely different experience from the other mediums in which I have experienced AB’s work. This time I was mining for the difference between confession and honesty. Places where I felt uncomfortable. I was looking for that sandwich scene, looking to see how this all built up. What I found was this passage:

Maybe, I thought, I don’t need a father to be happy. Maybe, what you get from a father you can get from somebody else, later. Or maybe you can just work around what’s missing, build the house of your life over the hole that is there and always will be.

The whole book leads a reader in one direction, and then naturally, seamlessly brings them to a whole different place. The book is as much about AB as it is his father. And never, not once, did I feel tricked or feel like what’s the point? AB’s work is not popular just because it is good; it’s popular because it has purpose.

On that note, I will leave you with some pictures from a recent snowshoeing excursion I went on with Shadow. Not all writing happens behind the desk. And while working in memoir feels super uncomfortable, feels at time downright icky because being the center of attention seems narcissistic—it’s nice to remember life is not only about me or my place in it.


Sometimes we're the center of the story . . .

Sometimes we’re the center of the story . . .


And sometimes

And sometimes


we're not.

we’re not.


Filed under Art, Growing up, humor, Life, Literature, Non Fiction, Random, Writing


Image taken by Gretchen Marquette

Image taken by Gretchen Marquette

I just wanted to write a short note to let readers know that my short story, “Practically Human,” was published in Revolver last week.

You can find a link to read it here.

I can’t take all the credit for myself, as editor Luke Finaas collaborated with me on the story—helping to take it up that extra notch in humor and tightness. This is the second short story I’ve published, and I have to say it was a great learning experience.

I hope you like it, and if you do, don’t be afraid to share and repost on Twitter or Facebook. If you have the time, poke around on their site. There are a ton of amazing writers.

Hope you’re having a good day. I’m off to go snowshoeing now . . .


Filed under Art, Books, Fiction, humor, Life, Literature, Random, Writing

ISBN: 978-0-14-243723-0 (Part I)

Don Quixote by Cervantes

Don Quixote by Cervantes

I bought Don Quixote by Cervantes two summers ago. I heard vague rumors that the book was the basis of the modern novel, so I begged M to read it with me for our book club. When it arrived I almost crapped my pants.

Me: A thousand pages? Is that, like, as long as the bible? What font is this, 8? I can’t read this.

M felt the same way, so instead of opening it up, it just sat on the shelf next to my coke machine bank and a copy of C++ For Dummies. Every once and a while I’d walk past it and think, that book is probably filled with old timey language. We all know how much I hate ‘old timey’ language*.

I had a good reason for thinking this, as Don Q was written over four hundred years ago.

I had never given thought to the fact that this copy was a translation, and therefore would be updated, and well, easier for someone like me to read. The art form of translating was basically lost on me until the last volume of McSweeney’s arrived in the mail**.  After reading that, I decided that I should give Don Q a solid try. For the record, I am reading the John Rutherford translation.

I planned to read five hundred pages for this week, but due to the miniscule font, I only made it to two hundred and fifty pages, or the end of chapter XXVII—whatever number that would be in real numbers.

Here are my initial impressions of the book:

1.)   Cervantes was funny. Funnier than I thought. Some of that has to do with the translation, as I’m sure things like cardboard weren’t yet invented in DQ’s time, but dang, I had no idea this guy was basically Post Modern. It has bodily function (think poop and vomit) humor alongside of sheer wit. Why haven’t I read this before?

2.)    If Don Quixote were alive today, he’d be hospitalized, given a heavy dose of anti-psychotics, and tried for violent behavior.

3.)   I’m glad DQ isn’t alive today.

4.)   The windmills don’t really have that big a part in the book as I thought….

5.)   Sancho steals the show, as every good sidekick should.

6.)   This book ought to be made into a major motion picture, one where they invest millions of dollars and have multiple sequels.

DQ is the type of character a reader pulls for, so I’m hoping Cervantes doesn’t pull a Hemingway and kill the guy. I no longer care about the size of the font or the number of pages—

I just got to get to the end of this book.



*I went to a theater production of Shakespeare’s As You Like It at the Guthrie this past weekend, and it nearly killed me. I was totally fine with the gramophones and costumes that were from every time period except Shakesphere’s, but it all fell apart when the people with the animal heads came on stage and started singing. That’s when I started to panic…

**It’s easier for me just to tell you to look it up then try to explain it here.


Filed under Art, Books, Fiction, Life, Literature, Random, Writing