Bookaholics Anonymous

I love books. I think I’ve mentioned it before. There’s just something about the smell of dusty pages that takes me instantly to other worlds, other universes, fantasy realms. I’m not a book snob though, I’m just as happy with e-books, audiobooks, second-hand paperbacks; hell, I’d be happy to have someone else read to me as I sit back with a glass of wine. To say my house is filled with books is an understatement. I look at it as having a living, growing library rather than hoarding though. Hey, don’t roll your eyes at me! It helps me get through the day.

So yes, hello everyone, this is my first time at Bookaholics Anonymous and I am a book hoarder. No, I don’t have books cluttering up my hallways (well, maybe just a few), but I do have a lot of books. A LOT of books.

Also, just so we’re clear, I will never stop loving books. You know that guy that thought his wife was a hat and he fell in love with the hat?  I fell in love with books, a long, long time ago (in a galaxy far, far away). As Cat Stevens said, “The first cut is the deepest” and I’m ninety-nine percent sure he was talking about a paper cut.

Seriously though, I think everyone is secretly in love with books anyway. I mean, think about it: you go to your local nightclub, everyone’s talking about “picking up” getting “checked out.” Deep down inside, we all love books so much we want to be books. We use the same lingo in a place where we get shhhhed as the place where we say, “Shhhhhiiiit, I’m soooo wasted!” Coincidence? I think not.

Books are good people. No, no, no, wait, wait, wait … I meant, “books are good, people,” not “books are good citizens.” That would just be crazy talk. See the importance of commas, kids?

So, the other day.  I’m in the library, my temple, my place of refuge, my sanctuary where all my friends hang out. Yup, they’re all there. All my BFFs, sitting patiently on their shelves waiting to be picked up, Treasure Island, The Count of Monte Cristo, Great Expectations. And I pick up this book by Alex Kava called Before Evil.

If you haven’t read Alex Kava’s Maggie O’Dell series, just what the hell are you waiting for?? Needless to say, I checked it out.

So anyway, I’m reading this book, and I see that the editor or proof-reader or perhaps both didn’t do as good a job as they really should have. Let’s just say there were some mistakes.  Mistakes even Microsoft Word’s menacing paper clip would have jumped on.

The sad thing is, this is becoming more common, even with well-known authors who have decent publishing houses behind them. And you know what? It’s not such a big deal for me. When I come across a mistake, I simply correct it in my head and move on. I’ll repeat, in my head.

However, the previous reader of this Before Evil book didn’t settle for simply correcting the mistakes in their head and moving on. Oh no. They had taken it upon themselves to correct all the grammar and editorial mistakes with a pencil. In the book.

Now some book lovers might rejoice, and others would shake their head at the idea of writing in a book … a library book of all things. I know that textbooks bear the brunt of a student’s study habits, and that’s all good.  But there are serious moral questions to be asked here. Is this a good thing or a bad thing, making corrections in a book? Should we all be literary vigilantes? We have guerrilla gardening, guerrilla knitting, why not guerrilla editing?

How to play: walk into any library, pick up any book and start correcting. Done. Easy-peasy, right? Congratulations, you’re a guerrilla editor! Better than being a gorilla (I’m told they can’t read, but I think they can and they’re just faking).

Is it bad to write in a library book? It’s not your property after all. It belongs to everyone. Is this person doing a service or a disservice to the readers who come after them?

In this case it was in pencil. So, it could be erased should the librarians choose to do so. But still, maybe someone doesn’t want those editing marks? Maybe for some it will prove distracting? Maybe the mistakes were deliberate and intended as some kind of post-modernist subversive statement? I mean, really, who are we to say?

Maybe the editor was having a tough day when Before Evil came across their desk. Maybe this veteran book editor, normally perfection itself when it comes to editing, was having a flashback to their previous workplace where they were bullied for not knowing the difference between an Oxford comma and you know, that other one, and they see an editing mark and completely flip out… they start tearing up books left and right, jumping on tables, and shouting at the top of their lungs: “You can’t shhhh me, I’m the gingerbook lady!” All to say that maybe, just maybe, they were having an off day in the proofreading department.

More importantly, how much of a grammar nazi do you have to be to do something like this?

But it gets worse … there I was looking at these marks, when I saw that the self-appointed editor had made a contentious decision. In one paragraph, they had crossed out the word “shrubs” and scribbled in “scrubs.”  But here’s the thing … the original word choice from the author was arguably right as the character was in fact making their way through some trees at the time. A person doesn’t dive into some scrubs unless they’re in a hospital and desperately need to get suitably dressed in a hurry to get to their own surgery.

Now there’s a book idea. Forget Before Evil.

Before Surgery.

Anyway, there I was, thinking: do I change the change? Do I edit the edit?

But then, what is the literary world coming to? If people are allowed to make edits all willy-nilly, however they want, will all editing of future novels be outsourced to the readers? What is this anyway, I suddenly asked myself? Wikipedia?

How do I insult thee? Let me count the ways.

The older we get the less we understand the slang that these young kids use nowadays. Or, wait, is that just me? Hey, I’ll admit… I’m just not picking up what these young cats are laying down these days, you dig? What exactly is a “yeet” anyway?  It sounds like the newborn offspring of a species of goat that only lives in the mountainous regions somewhere deep in the Andean Mountains. The insults we grew up with were more scathing. There was nothing more insulting than walking down the street and hearing someone yell out, “hey, nerd!” Brutal, I know.

To be truly creative, though, we need to go back a bit further. We need to take it back to a point in history where insults were truly scornful, and yes, inspiring. I’m talking Shakespeare. Now, Shakespeare knew how to curse, but he also knew how to throw insults with the best of them. Oh, who am I kidding, he WAS the best of them. I mean, the man made up new words when those readily at hand would not do, for Pete’s sake.

So, without further ado, here are my favorite Shakespearean insults, in no particular order. Trust me, folks, we need to bring these gems back into circulation.

Thou art as fat as butter. (Henry IV)

If you really want to get your point across to someone, you need to compare them to something with high fat content and not something fat by default like the world or their mother.

More of your conversation would infect my brain. (Coriolanus)

Why settle for calling someone stupid when you can go one better and describe exactly how their words are affecting you? Instead of saying, I’m all the more stupid for having heard this… try telling them that their word salad is literally infecting your brain. It would devalue their argument so much that they’ll have no choice but to submit to your Shakespearean wit. You could tell them that your insult was from Shakespeare, but they probably don’t even know who J.K. Rowling is, let alone Shakespeare.

I’ll beat thee, but I would infect my hands. (Timon of Athens)

We’ve all met those annoying people we would love to whack over the head if it would get them to stop blathering. Continuing Shakespeare’s odd fascination with infections, you can tell these folks that they are simply too loathsome for the figurative (of course, figurative) beating they so rightly deserve. Despite their seemingly good health, merely touching them would put you in a state of near death due to their gangrenous personality. I know, right!?  Awesome insult!

I am sick when I do look on thee (Midsummer Night’s Dream)

I’m starting to think Shakespeare had a thing with the bubonic plague. Apparently, you could infect him with sound, touch, and now… simply looking at someone makes him sick. But hey, he does have a way with words.  This would be the final topping on the cake for someone with a lovely outer skin but an ugly disposition. Bonus points if you mix this with the phrase about butter.

You Banbury cheese! (Merry Wives of Windsor)

Not a lot of people will know that this insult was originally meant for skinny people. You see, Banbury cheese was very thin. Stupidly thin. And back in Shakespeare’s time it was more prominent to be plump, so calling someone skinny was just plain insulting. However, nowadays this insult goes beyond looks, as every good insult should do.  Cheese is smelly, cheese can be ridiculously obnoxious, cheese can look lovely on the outside and be rancid on the inside, cheese can make you want to vomit. Just take your pick. Viewing it a different way, cheese is supposed to be thick and rich and decadent, so the fact that Banbury cheese is ludicrously thin with more rind than actual cheese is rather stupid. Hence the person you’re calling a Banbury cheese is a stupid-head (of cheese). Plus, I just like the way it sounds.

You whoreson cullionly barber-monger! (King Lear)

I’m not exactly sure where Shakespeare was going with this one as it’s contained in a scene where people were throwing words all over the place. However, I assure you that using this is the equivalent of firing a bullet from your mouth and it would absolutely destroy whoever it is aimed at. Just walk into your local dive-bar and use this phrase at random, then watch everyone freeze, impressed with your mighty wit.

Away, you three-inch fool! (The Taming Of The Shrew)

Thinking back on my English Lit days, I believe that Shakespeare used this as an insult to someone’s height, but let’s be real about using it today, you’re going to insult another area of someone’s life that they really, really care about when it comes to length. Instead of directly insulting some guy’s junk with a “why, you have a small wiener sir,” drive home the point by dropping this line that gives a very specific length. I can’t think of a better response to those crude ‘negging’ pick-up lines too many of us women endure every time we go out.

So, there you have it. Some grade-A, well-honed – if not contemporary – put-downs for your insult arsenal. One for every day of the week. Now, get out there and make me proud!

Guilty Pleasures Redux

While I struggle to rid myself of a truly magnificent migraine… enjoy this blast from the past. As soon as the bass drum concerto that is currently taking place in my noggin concludes, I’ll be back with some fresh content.  I would like to mention, however, for full disclosure’s sake, that my heated feelings toward the “new” Looney Tunes show (it’s not so new anymore) have eased somewhat. What can I say? The show grew on me. Now… where the hell is my Excedrin?

Originally posted July 8, 2014 ………………………….

Guilty Pleasures

I like to think that I’m somewhat intelligent. Somewhat being the key word here. The books I read, while plenty entertaining with rich plot and interesting, complex characters, lean a bit more towards the literary than the commercial side.  I have nothing against glittering vampires or convoluted S&M with rich bachelors; they’re just not my thing. I also enjoy movies and shows that require at least some brain activity to understand. If it’s starring Larry the Cable Guy, chances are I won’t be buying a ticket. I’m far from Mensa worthy, but I do need more.

Then again…we all have our guilty pleasures or vices or whatever you want to call them and mine would have to be Looney Tunes cartoons. I love them! Like, love them. Not the new cartoons that are a full half hour and computer generated.  Oh no. I’m a fan of the old school Looney Tunes, the ones that lasted four minutes (six tops), were hand-drawn, and featured all the favorites back when they were all voiced by one guy.

Bugs Bunny playing tricks on Elmer Fudd. Pepe le Pew courting a poor bedraggled female cat unfortunately streaked with paint (I always enjoyed Pepe’s consternation when the tables were turned). Daffy Duck spraying spit everywhere. All brought to hilarious life thanks to the vocal genius Mel Blanc. He was the premier cartoon voice actor and launched all of these characters into legendary status.  Check out Mel Blanc’s biography some time (who knew he voiced Barney Rubble??).  A man of 1,000 voices indeed.  If the character isn’t voiced by him, I’m not interested.

In fact, I hate the new Looney Tunes show.  It shouldn’t even be considered true Looney Tunes. It’s a pale reflection of the original. I cling firmly to the old, majestic pieces that used classical sonatas and overtures to set the tone. Hell, most of what I know and love of classical music and opera today comes straight from watching these cartoons. They’re short nuggets of pure fun and tomfoolery. I love them so much that, thanks to Boomerang, having them on the t.v. is one of my primo weapons against nighttime anxiety on those occasions when I just can’t seem to shut my brain off from the stressful things I was faced with all day.

I must say, though, that I find it heartbreaking that Wile E. Coyote will always be remembered for his failures instead of his true artistic talent and creative brilliance. (Yes, this is how much I’ve analyzed the cartoons.) He truly was an innovative thinker. He painted fake roads, train tracks (so real that even trains were confused), and used tricks of visual perception to make a flat boulder look like a tunnel. Wile E. constantly rebelled against modern convention and thumbed his nose at the laws of physics on numerous occasions. He built rockets for god’s sake and catapults and plucking mechanisms. All for naught, but the genius was there nonetheless. Suuuper genius.

I also find it sad that Marvin the Martian never once got to blow up the Earth. Had he succeeded it would have sucked for us, but imagine his point of view. Never once did he get to reach the one goal he set for himself in life. It’s tragic really.

While all of those characters have a special place in my heart, my absolute favorites are the Goofy Gophers. Remember them? Perhaps a little further down in the Looney Tunes canon, but they had a style all their own. Snobby and pretentious? Yes. But charming, genial, accommodating, and well-mannered to a T, their prissy aristocratic accents capped off what I found to be a hilarious pair. I loved it. “Shall we hit Elmer Fudd on the head with this hammer?”  “Why yes, let’s.”  “Indubitably.” Classic!

Maybe my love of Looney Tunes isn’t a guilty pleasure. Maybe the characters are complex enough and “deep” enough to rationalize my love of them. Or maybe I’m just a grown woman who loves cartoon animals chasing each other with dynamite. You decide.

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If I Could Bottle My Nightmares (in Prose)

I could easily be a multi-millionaire. Seriously. I’m very close actually. If I can get my brain to work with me, I’ll be raking it in any day now.

How? Easy. I’d be an author using my dreams as inspiration. Not really dreams so much as out and out nightmares. The problem I have is my memory isn’t cooperating in my get rich scheme. I can’t remember my dreams well enough to write them down. Oh sure, I can remember them for like 5 seconds after I wake up… but not long enough to put pen to paper.  If I could hold on to a thought for longer than a few seconds, I’d make Stephen King books sound like lullabies.

You see, pretty much all of my dreams are nightmarish thrillers, spilling over with titillating plot lines, unbridled suspense, and chilling revelations at every terrifying turn. In technicolor. These best-selling novels of mine would be easily adaptable for the big screen. No need to be picky about that. We can franchise it even. Maybe make an app. I’d be into merchandising too. T shirts, boxers, hats, those little do-thingies with the bobbly heads.

I mean, listen, we can discuss all of the logistics later. Right now I’m just ready to start writing and I fully believe my literary creations would be a rousing success. The monsters I see when I sleep are right on par with anything portrayed in John Carpenter movies (back when he made kick-ass horror movies). I want to be humble, but honestly, they might even be better. The things my unwitting mind conjures up while it’s supposed to be resting are truly horrifying and unique. I mean, I should get credit even though I’m completely unconscious. That’s only fair. Right?

The only thing holding me back is that I can never fully remember the way the story goes. (If you believe that, I have a bridge to sell you.) Seriously though, I can visualize the dreams easily but getting it out of my mouth or onto paper is the problem. I know they would make for good story material and I know I’m ready to write.  The fact that I lack any type of writing skills or motivation whatsoever shouldn’t even come into it, right? Right!?

So come on, brain, let’s start working together and get the next Salem’s Lot on the shelves. Now… just where did I put my thesaurus??

For the Love of Books

If you’ve been paying attention, you’ll know that I just moved. If you haven’t been paying attention, no worries, I barely pay attention myself.  However, this latest move really brought home (ha! Pun!) a harsh truth. I have too many books.  Although, really, are there ever too many books?  The movers who carted my stuff from the old place to the new place might say yes. They might even add in some colorful sentence enhancers.

After my last move, I downsized quite a bit and no longer have the “houseful of stuff” I’ve had in the past. I’ve narrowed down my possessions considerably. Still, it doesn’t seem to have made moving any easier. You see, I had only two different categories of boxes for the movers to sort through: fragile and books. The fragile items include a teacup collection, a vintage/antique plate collection, and other such sentimental possessions. I’d have to say though, the books won. You know, if we’re keeping count. Which I suppose we are.

I loathe giving up a book. In the past, I have donated a select few to a nursing home and a preschool. But in general, if I like a book enough to buy it, I like it enough to keep it.  So here I am, surrounded by books and fragile things. Not sure what that says about my state of being, but there you go.

If I’m honest, there’s really something comforting about being surrounded by books and if you’re an avid reader, I’m sure you can relate. I guess it’s why I love libraries and bookstores, and my own “not quite to the hoarding point” collection. I’ve always dreamed of having a library the likes of which are scene in Beauty and the Beast.  There’s just something about mountains of books that feels like home.

To start, there’s the soothing smell of an old book. Hell, even brand-new books have a comforting aroma. I’m willing to bet that you know exactly what I’m talking about. Next, there’s the satisfaction to be found in a page flip. As you progress further and further into a tale and flip a page, a feeling of accomplishment that’s almost addicting always follows. I’m not even going to get into the sheer excitement of delving deeper and deeper into a good story and the need – the absolute need – to find out how it ends … I mean, that would probably be showing a bit too much of my “crazy.”

To say I owe a lot to books is probably also showing a bit too much of my “crazy.” Doesn’t make it any less true though. I’m able to look back and see every book, every story, every adventure, and connect it to the time in my life when I first read it. When I need to reconnect to that time in my life or that feeling, I re-read certain books. Some books are just “comfort food” for my soul. Others take me on an adventure or thrill me with the ghosties that I love so much.

Heaven for me would be my own little kingdom of books, books, and more books. Nerdy? Yes, but it’s my thing. We all need to find that thing in life that brings us joy and, for me, that’s books.

Finding Calm in the Chaos

I’ve always wondered about admired the ones who keep a cool head in the face of stressful, sad, and irritating situations. Some people just seem so damn happy all the time. And while I envy them their joyful outlook on life, they’re also annoying as hell. I mean, just how do they find such unbridled joy – let alone, so much of it – when the world around us is so often full of noise and negativity?

I will admit that I still don’t know the answer to that. It’s not alcohol. I know that much. All that gets you is naked on a table at the neighborhood TGI Fridays, dancing to piped in muzak, and no-one wins in that scenario.  As much as I’ve enjoyed my spontaneous tabletop diversions, I’ve decided to explore the idea of joy in a much more productive manner.  And I’m taking all of you along for the ride.

What prompted this experiment in happiness, you ask?  Well, walking through a bookstore recently (of course, right? a bookstore!), I saw a book called Three Moments of Joy.

The cover drew me to the book if I’m being honest. It just looked happy. Contrary to my oft-displayed demeanor, I like happy. Three Moments of Joy is a guided activity journal, and while there’s not much to the book itself, the purpose behind it is amazingly profound.  It’s intended to help us focus on finding three things that bring us a sense of joy every single day. More than that, it’s meant to change our entire outlook on life and the world around us. That’s a tall order for a book with an illustrated bird on the cover, I know. However, this book’s motto… why yes, the book has a motto… sums it up pretty well: “What you focus on, expands.”  Following this logic, it’s not such a tall order after all. Even on the worst days, we can find three small moments of joy, thereby lessening the grief or the stress or the chaos. We may have to dig deep to find those three small moments, but… what you focus on, expands.

One thing I liked about this book is that rather than have all the answers, it sends you off to find your own. This book seemed to say, “Hey, we understand life is busy and chaotic. Life can be a struggle. Life can suck. Why not try to find three things that make you happy each day? This story is yours and you’ll decide on your own path.”

“Stop and smell the roses”, has always seemed cheesy to me. I just don’t have time to do that! But maybe that’s the problem.

As I said, I’m taking you along for this enlightenment ride. I’ll post my “three moments of joy” every evening. Although, knowing me, I’ll likely end up piggybacking a few together BUT I will be giving it my best effort. Maybe you’ll share your three moments of joy with me in the comments so we can truly take this journey together.  I mean, hell, if I can do it, as curmudgeonly as I am, anyone can. Besides, who couldn’t use a little more joy in their life?  What you focus on, expands.

 

Libraries, am I right?

Okay, so I know that I said I was off my book kick, but well, to put it bluntly, I lied. Although to my credit, this is more about libraries than books. Yeah, yeah, fine, I know. It’s about books.

As a kid, I spent a lot of time at the local library. Shocking, I know. The same can be said for when my kids were young readers. Quite honestly, nothing has changed. Walking into a library is heaven for me. It brings a sense of tranquility and excitement, if that makes sense. I do it as often as possible.

I’m constantly amazed at the number of people who don’t even own a library card. I mean, WTF? It’s free for goodness sake … free knowledge, free entertainment, free escapism. The question shouldn’t be, why do you need a library card, but rather, why don’t you have a library card?

They call the internet the information superhighway … well, the libraries had this down pat long before the internet was thought into existence. I’ve always thought that the idea that you could walk into an information storehouse and take as many books as you want home – for free – was just too good to be true. From self-betterment to the opportunity to explore new and exciting worlds, libraries are valuable.

In what might seem like an unrelated statement (but trust me, it’s not), if you’ve never seen 1994’s, The Pagemaster, I highly recommend it. Yes, I know you’re all adults. So what? It’s an awesome movie. I first watched it with my son and it soon became a favorite for us both, and then my daughter as well, when she came along. It brought to life, literally, the books we already loved so much.  Perhaps unsurprisingly, I’ve been known to watch it just a *cough cough* time or two in recent years.

The Pagemaster is focused around a ten-year old boy named Richard. Young Richard bases his perception of life on statistics and figures and risk assessment, resulting in a fear of… well, just about everything. Upon getting caught in a storm, Richard takes shelter in a library to wait out the nasty weather. A fantastical adventure ensues as Richard encounters the Pagemaster, three books – horror, adventure, and fantasy – who seemingly come to life (horror, bless his heart, is my favorite … I know, typical, right?), and various fictional characters from beloved classics. To avoid spoiling the entire movie (I will reiterate that I highly recommend you watch it yourself), Richard gains a new sense of confidence and fearlessness by the end of his adventures.

It would be easy to say that The Pagemaster is a metaphor for the way books offer excitement, adventure, and a new perspective on life that we can carry with us forever, because it’s true. But it’s more than that. Books let us explore worlds that we never knew existed while helping us to be more present in our own. They quite literally feed our imagination to keep our sense of wonder alive, and this movie captures it all. An homage to libraries everywhere, The Pagemaster captures the importance of books and the impact they can have on young minds (though old minds could benefit from a book or two as well!).

So, while it might seem a little odd to recommend a movie in order to encourage reading… that’s exactly what I’m doing. I mean, let’s face it, today, now more than ever, we need books (and the libraries that safeguard them) and all they have to offer.