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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: Dana Spiotta, Most Recent at Top [Help]
Results 1 - 5 of 5
1. Looking back as I look toward my son's graduation day

You will, I hope, forgive the nostalgia that floods this week as I look ahead toward my son's graduation from the finest communications program in the country.  He'll leave that campus emboldened—by adventures and friendships, by classes and professors, by his four years as a news writer and content producer for the student-writer TV station, by his two semesters with the great writer, Dana Spiotta.  He'll leave with a major in Advertising and a minor in English and Textual Studies.  He is, already, missing this place that had welcomed him so completely.  He speaks of all he has learned, retells his adventures, promises that he'll be returning, soon.  On my end of the phone, I listen.  Yes, I say, I understand.  Because leaving is the hardest work we do.

Today, while writing about the role of prologue in memoir for Handling the Truth, I stopped to re-read my own prologue to Seeing Past Z: Nurturing the Imagination in a Fast-Forward World, the book I wrote about the power and place of the imagination in children.  I had wanted, I had written about my then-nine-year-old son, wisdom over winning.  I had wanted him to channel his talents toward passions of his own choosing.  I'd wanted happiness for him, room for his own dreams.

It strikes me now, as I read these words, that my boy grew up into the man I had fervently hoped he would be.  He has everything I'd wanted for him—moral wisdom, deep joy, remarkable friendships, an extraordinary education, a career he cannot wait to seize, and a habit that still sits him down at a desk to write whatever he wants to write, when other pressures ease.  He remains my trusted reader, my confidante, the guy who always asks, no matter how busy he is, So how are you doing today, Mom?

He'll graduate on Mother's Day, and while that seems (to me) to be right and good, it is also important, on this day, to feature this image, above, made by my son's father, who is also my husband, who loves this kid just as much as I do. The image is, of course, one of two in a series, the first of which I showcased yesterday.

I want to raise my son to pursue wisdom over winning.  I want him to channel his passions and talents and personal politics into rivers of his choosing.  I’d like to take the chance that I feel it is my right to take on contentment over credentials, imagination over conquest, the idiosyncratic point of view over the standard-issue one.  I’d like to live in a world where that’s okay.
            Some call this folly.  Some make a point of reminding me of all the most relevant data:  That the imagination has lost its standing in classrooms and families nationwide.  That storytelling is for those with too much time.  That winning early is one bet-hedging path toward winning later on.  That there isn’t time, as there once was time, for a child’s inner life.  That a mother who eschews competition for conversation is a mother who places her son at risk for second-class citizenry.

9 Comments on Looking back as I look toward my son's graduation day, last added: 5/9/2012
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2. Shards/Ismet Prcic: Reflections

Two nights ago, just after I'd slipped the steaks onto their plates, a gold-dipped wine glass tumbled from a top cabinet shelf, just like that.  I hadn't touched it.

The glass, the gold, scattered to all ends of the kitchen and out into the hall.  I spent a long time collecting the pieces, and then yesterday, illuminated by the spot of sun that wedges through the front door, I discovered that the shards had multiplied overnight; they were still there, still bristling with danger.

I was thinking of that shattered glass early this morning as I finished reading Shards, the debut novel by Ismet Prcic.  I bought this book because I know Lauren Wein, its editor.  I bought it because others have expressed their astonishment.  I bought it because it has the word "propulsive" in the jacket copy.  I like that word.  It doesn't belong to me or my work, it may not ever, but it absolutely belongs to Prcic and Shards.

My word, where to begin?  First, as I noted here in a previous post, you're not going to find many sentences in any book, anywhere, like the sentences you find here.  One after the other after the other.  Prcic makes use of preposterous and somehow dead-on analogies and allusions, profanities and profundities.  He celebrates the hieroglyphs of punctuational tics, smears words, elevates typefaces, deploys footnotes, diary entries, memoirisms, blasphemy, theater, treachery, vulgarisms, and you know what?  It works.  It's not cute.  It's not invention for invention's sake.  It's not ponderous:  Prcic needs every thing that language surrenders to tell his heartbreaking, rude, surprisingly compassionate, and still violent story about a Bosnian refuge who is trying to make sense of his new life in southern California.  What did Prcic (for indeed, that is the character's name) leave behind?  Who did he leave behind?  At what cost, his own survival?

I could write a mile-long review and fail at explaining this book.  Frankly, I think any reviewer would feel the same way, or should.  There's an easy explanation for this lack of explanation:  this book cannot be explained.  It is to be experienced.  Sentence by sentence, scene by scene.  I quoted a favorite early passage in that blog post of the other day.  Here I'll quote another:
Movies don't do it justice—that's all I'm going to say about the thought-collapsing, breath-stealing sound a spinning shell makes as it pierces the air on the way down toward the center of your town, in between three of the busiest cafes and a little bit to the right of the popcorn vendor in the midst of hundreds of citizens who are pretending that everything is okay, that the war is winding down.  But I didn't know that yet.

2 Comments on Shards/Ismet Prcic: Reflections, last added: 11/29/2011
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3. Month 2 of iPad2: A review of books and apps; a chronicle of experiences

I'm well into my second month of cohabiting with the iPad2, and I'm frankly still getting used to the creature. Still learning how to navigate and sync. Still trying to discover how to make it work for me.

Some reporting, then, from the field.

I have found the iBooks (I bought Bossypants and a guidebook to Croatia) to offer a more alluring read than the Kindle books, thanks to the preview capability, the extras, the ease of navigation, and the more generous simulation of actual-book reading. And yet, I have leaned more heavily toward Kindle books because the titles I have wanted—In Zanesville, A Visit From The Goon Squad, Please Look After Mom, When We Danced on Water—have been either more readily or more cost-effectively Kindle available. During these past six weeks I have continued to go into bookstores and to buy books proper, continued to hold proper paper-and-spine books such as Cleopatra, Caleb's Crossing, Sweet Dreams, and A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius on my lap. I don't think I will ever willingly give up on my old book-buying habit.

I have also made use of the PDF Reader to read both my own adult novel-in-progress (I wanted to approximate the feel of the read before the book was sent out to editors for review) and Dana Spiotta's magnificent Stone Arabia. I'm clearly not a skilled PDF Reader user. I am not thrilled with, and could never look past, the floating nature of those pages, the inability to truly mark the text, the sense that I was reading a mere facsimile. I'm buying Spiotta's book when it comes out in July because I want to own it, have it on my shelves, pick it up with ease, flip to a favorite page. And certainly I am hoping that my own adult novel will move past the PDF Reader stage.

On the other hand, I have loved—loved—reading The New York Times on the iPad2. I still retrieve the weekend edition from the end of my driveway, still settle in with the paper version of the magazine. But I find the overall newspaper to be easier to handle on the iPad2—more alluring, more easily reviewed, more packed with the bright lights of videos and links.  I don't annoy my husband with the crinkle and snap of the paper while he sits on the other end of the couch watching his monster river fish and World War II shows, and I am more connected to the news than I was, and that, alone, is worth the price of this machine. The New Yorker still arrives via the old mangled mailbox each Tuesday. I'm not quite sure that I want to go digital with that particular publication just yet.

Since I am soon bound for London and Berlin, I've also bought some travel apps and played with these.  I'll be honest: I'm still going out to buy a travel guide or two. Call me old-fashioned. I like to dog ear my instructions to foreign places. The Berlin app, for the record, was far superior to the L

7 Comments on Month 2 of iPad2: A review of books and apps; a chronicle of experiences, last added: 5/26/2011
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4. Dana Spiotta. Stone Arabia. (Read it.)

Back on May 21st I made the audacious announcement that I had just read the book of the year, which is to say that I'd just finished Stone Arabia by Dana Spiotta.  Audacious because I'd already been singing some pretty sweet blog tunes about many a fine read this year.  Audacious because I've not yet read the forthcoming Ondaatje or Otsuka, or, indeed, the entire fall line-up.  Audacious because, well, who am I, anyway?

But if one must stand on a cliff, why not stand on Stone Arabia?  This brother-sister story is original, foundational, heartbreakingly sad and heartbreakingly funny, and I don't need to repeat myself, because I called it back in May.

But, hey.  It's nice to have some company in that assessment, and so I give you here Kate Christensen's words, published today, on behalf of the New York Times Book Review.  Christensen calls Stone Arabia "a work of visceral honesty and real beauty."  See what else she has to say.

And if you want to know what big question lies at the heart of this novel, listen to Dana herself, live from YouTube.

1 Comments on Dana Spiotta. Stone Arabia. (Read it.), last added: 7/8/2011
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5. Shards/Ismet Prcic: Early Reflections

Ever since Dana Spiotta reviewed Shards in the The New York Times Book Review a few weeks ago, I have been eager to get a copy for myself. Consider, here, what Dana says:
The novel is constructed of fragments — shards — seemingly written by its main character, Ismet Prcic. Ismet grows up in Tuzla and manages to flee shortly before his induction into the “meat grinder” of the Bosnian infantry. He has survived and made his way to America, but is fractured by what he left behind. The novel comprises mostly segments from his therapist- ordered memoir (or memoirs) and excerpts from his diary. These shards employ several narrative strategies. There are asterisked footnotes, italicized interruptions and self-reflexive comments about unreliability. There are first-, second- and third-person narrations, sometimes switching back and forth within a paragraph. This is a novel about struggling to find form for a chaotic experience. It pushes against convention, logic, chronology. But its disruptions are necessary. How do you write about war and the complications of memory? How do you write about dislocation, profound loneliness, terror? How does a human persevere?
Truth is, I'd been eager to read Ismet Prcic's debut novel ever since I sat in the office of Lauren Wein, the book's editor, and listened to her read aloud from the opening passage.  The book had only recently been released as advance reading copies and, judging from the number of brilliantly hued sticky notes attached to many of the pages, Lauren was still giving this book her extraordinary editorial attentions.  I loved the sound of what she had read to me.  I could not wait to read more.  And then, caught up in the crazy swirl of my own life, I did wait, not buying the book until just recently.

I am only into the early pages at this point. I am not, as I thought I might be, intimidated by the hybrid of forms, techniques, approaches.  The word "propulsive" has been attached to this book, and that it is, but the book is remarkably resonant, too, often funny, surprisingly accessible, despite all that is original and new.  Here is an early-in example:
I love a girl, Melissa.  Her hair oozes like honey.  It's orange in the sun.  She loves me, mati.  She's American.  She goes to church.  She wears a cross right where her freckles disappear into her cleavage.  She volunteers.  She takes forty minutes to scramble eggs over really low heat, but when they're done they explode in your mouth like fireworks, bursts of fatty yolk and coarse salt and cracked pepper and sharp melted cheddar and something called thyme.  She's sharp.  She drives like a lunatic.  She's capable of both warmth and coldness, and just hanging around her to see what it will be that day is worth it.

3 Comments on Shards/Ismet Prcic: Early Reflections, last added: 11/21/2011
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