Saturday, September 29, 2012

the art and psychology of mixed tapes and belonging.

I first read The Perks of Being a Wallflower at the end of college.  It is written as a series of letters to an unknown recipient from a Charlie, a sophomore in high school.  He is the "wallflower" mentioned in the title, whose new friend claims "You see things.  You keeps quiet about them. And you understand." Charlie's earnest voice gives names and narrative to the essence of late adolescence. 

I loved it, but didn't connect with the characters the way high school readers did because I felt like I was a life-stage ahead of them...the characters were in the act of figuring out who they were and I felt like I was already there.  Of course, those are the kinds of cringe-inducing, arrogant things that 22 year olds think.  Reading it now, ten years later, I found myself relating to Charlie's desire to be connected to the world around him and belong to something greater.  

He collects songs and makes mixed tapes.  He collects books.  He collects moments with his writing.  And he curates them in an attempt to make sense of existence.

"I hope it's the kind of second side that he can listen to whenever he drives alone and feel like he belongs to something whenever he's sad.  I hope it can be that for him." 

"I had an amazing feeling when I finally held up the tape in my hand.  I just thought to myself that in the palm of my hand, there was this one tape that had all of these memories and feelings and great joy and sadness.  Right there in my hand. And I thought about how many people have loved these songs. And how many people got through a lot of bad times because of those songs.  And how much those songs really mean." 

“And all the books you've read have been read by other people. And all the songs you've loved have been heard by other people. And that girl that's pretty to you is pretty to other people. and that if you looked at these facts when you were happy, you would feel great because you are describing 'unity.” 

"And in that moment, I swear we were infinite."

I've been thinking about what my current mixed tape would be (and what would I call it, and how would I design the cover) and which books I would pull off my shelf and hand to the world in an attempt to explain who I am? What stories do I need to write down? 

Because I think there is still, beyond the angst of the teenage years, the collecting and gathering of things that are beautiful and throwing them out into the world.  There is still the hope that someone will catch them and understand the way life's vignettes of beauty and pain have woven together an existence.  I have come to realize that my 22 year old self was the sophomoric one: the searching and desire to be known and to belong never really goes away.  And though as I've gotten older and have some truths to stand on, the mysteries seem to just get wider and taller--and that is when I need my songs and books and stories for some hope along the way.  And, perhaps, a fall adventure to frolic and feel infinite.  At almost 32. And maybe these imagined tapes and anthologies are as much for understanding myself as asking the world to understand me.    

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Summer Reading late September.

It seems like every year I have a month where my blog gets away from me.  This year it lasted for two.
August was spent working on another writing project, spending time with some favorites in North Carolina and East Hampton. My family drove in to celebrate my grandpa's 85th birthday and we got to go to the beach and wander the city.  I got to catch up with some favorite former students who just left for college, five years after I knew them as 7th and 8th graders. September was school starting celebrating the shower and nuptials of a kindred spirit for a few weekends and attempting to get some normal rhythms back in my life.  Now it's almost October.  Happy fall reading, y'all. May you have many afternoons spent with a hot beverage and a good book.

A few of these books I wrote about in July and I'm hoping I'll write about all of them someday.  I feel like I'm not giving these books their due, but for now, here is this year's list (and here are the ones from summers past):

A Short History of Women by Kate Walbert

Rules of Civility by Amor Towles

Stone's Fall by Iain Pears: a fascinating historical fiction mystery with the backdrop of the beginning of world financial markets

Ten Thousand Saints by Eleanor Henderson: a coming of age in the straight edge culture of the Lower East Side of New York City in the 1980s

Broken Colors by Michele Zackheim: the fictional account of an artist dealing with her brokenness across the two world wars into near-present in England, Italy, Paris and the American southwest

The Summer Book by Tove Jansson (as always)

Love and Death by Max Wallace and Ian Halperin: two journalists look into the death of Kurt Cobain. A great read for anyone who misses the 90s or is looking for a reason to revisit Nirvana and Hole.

Broken Harbor by Tana French: her 4th book based on the Dublin Murder Squad. I loved her other books, but this one was a bit disappointing