The Drowning Girl

If we The Drowning Girlare to disappear into the novels we read, if we are to become one with the characters and the story, what happens to us as readers when the subject is insanity? What if the main character, the primary focus and the book’s narrator is a schizophrenic with a dubious grasp on reality? This is the case with Caitlin R. Kiernan‘s The Drowning Girl, and it makes for a very good but troubling read.

As I read this work of dark fiction, I often wondered why I actually kept going. Was I enjoying the book? Was I drawn into the story? Or was I intrigued by the language and imagery? All of those were true to some extent, but not quite enough to keep my going. I am not one of those people who finishes a book just because I have started it. I am actually quite harsh in my practice of giving up on novels that don’t hold my attention. But that was it, no matter what else I can say of The Drowning Girl, it certainly held my attention.

We have all seen paintings or photographs that we admire. Artwork that makes us think and asks us to examine with a critical eye. We can appreciate the art, but we wouldn’t necessarily call it beautiful or want it hanging on our living room wall. The work is important. The artist is talented. But, there is no way we would want to stare deeply into that vision every day. This is precisely the literary sculpture that Kiernan has wrought.

The main character and narrator of this book, “Imp” to her friends, is having trouble coping with events in her life. This story is her coping mechanism.  From the first page of The Drowning Girl, we are thrown into Imp’s world of double meanings, facts versus truths, and interpretation through examination and exploration. Everything we come across in the story is not what it seems, even the tale itself. Every person or object or event has at least two meanings and just as many or more truths. People are both male, female, and both. Single events happen not once but twice, then maybe not at all. Reality is a matter of perception, and perception is a state of mind. And most importantly the mind is volatile and subject to change.

The novel’s story of mermaids, werewolves, murders, suicides, and the collapsing and expanding of relationships is actually secondary to the darker story of how our minds, and especially the minds of those with mental illness, play tricks on us while laying themselves out as truthful. The horrors of the book lie not in the foul creatures and horrendous acts of the characters, but in the manipulations of perception and remembrance.

This dichotomy within one’s own self is what makes the book so fascinating but also makes it disturbing. It is like staring at a mirror too long, or dwelling on a certain word so long that it loses its meaning and becomes nonsense. I cannot honestly say that I enjoyed this book, because enjoyment is the wrong term for the reaction. But I honestly enjoyed how the book made me think and feel and question, even though the doubts induced will be hard to shake. Those thoughts have taken root in the most permanent but volatile of all places, my mind.

A Bookman’s Tale

Bookman's TaleA Bookman’s Tale: A Novel Of Obsession by Charlie Lovett is one of the first books in a long time that compelled me to stay up late and read at every free, and some not free, moment I had. I was totally enthralled by the combination of books, history, romance, and dysfunctional personalities. I must say that I nodded my head knowingly a few too many times at the personality quirks of the main character, the bookman, Peter Byerly.

Is this something peculiar to those drawn to books? Is it such a standard trait that we are loners, prone to anxiety, and attracted to not only the lore but the physical characteristics of old books? The worst problem with this novel, if it can be seen as a problem, is that it has reinvigorated my interest in book collecting and has already been the catalyst to a good number of new purchase. I even started measuring my study this evening to ascertain whether or not I have enough room to add another book case. And for those keeping count, that would be a fifth case within that room.

If you are interested in books, in English history, in a good mystery, or a bittersweet love story, I would highly recommend A Bookman’s Tale. Along the way you may just learn something about Shakespeare and the exciting, yes really, world of rare books. I eagerly await Charlie Lovett’s next book. Luckily I don’t have long to wait; First Impressions: A Novel of Old Books, Unexpected Love, and Jane Austen is due out in just a few weeks. Yes, I have already ordered my copy.

Tech eBooks and Videos On Sale

I am a computer guy in real life. It is what I do for a living – what I do to put food on the table and keep a roof over our heads. And, it is a constantly changing field so I am always looking for educational materials. Those materials can be expensive though, so when I find a good deal I jump on it and also try to pass it on.

To that end, for those geekily inclined among us, I just heard of a very good deal. Packt Publishing, who produce a ton of great programing, sys admin and other computer books, is repeating their $5 eBook Bonanza again. To quote them, “Following on from the success of last year’s festive offer, the publisher will be celebrating the holiday season with an even bigger $5 Bonanza.”

From December 19th, customers will be able to get any ebook or video for just $5. This sale covers every title in the 1700+ range and customers can grab as many as they like until January 3rd 2014 – more information is available at http://bit.ly/1jdCr2W.

And if you are a fellow WordPress user, make sure to check out their collection of WordPress ebooks. I have also read their books on Drupal and Python, among others.

 

$5 Tech ebook and Video Bonanza

 

Not Your Typical Childhood Book – Exercise #24

When I was a kid, my mother would read to me for hours, I loved it.Man-Eaters of Kumaon by Jim CorbettThat simple act has had a great affect on me and is the key to my answer for today’s exercise. Exercise number twenty-four out of thirty-one is to detail my favorite childhood book. The answer to that may actually answer a lot of questions about my personality.

My mother saw no reason to stick to kids books when reading to me. Basically, if the subject was interesting and I could handle and understand it, then it was fare game. Game. Huh. The book I remember the most and will call my favorite was Man-Eaters of Kumaon by Jim Corbett. To quote Amazon,

Corbett was also an author of great renown. His books on the man-eating tigers he once tracked are not only established classics, but have by themselves created almost a separate literary genre. Man Eaters of Kumaon is the best known of Corbett’s books, one which offers ten fascinating and spine-tingling tales of pursuing and shooting tigers in the Indian Himalayas during the early years of this century. The stories also offer first-hand information about the exotic flora, fauna, and village life in this obscure and treacherous region of India, making it as interesting a travelogue as it is a compelling look at a bygone era of big-game hunting.

Continue reading “Not Your Typical Childhood Book – Exercise #24”

The Collector – Exercise #19

First off I would like to apologize to all who read my blog as soon as it comes out. I have discovered that the quickest and easiest way to proofread anything I have written is to just hit the “publish” button. Same probably works with email. As soon as you make the work public you will begin to notice all the small spelling errors, incorrect word choices, and mixtures of tense. I try to go back and correct these as quickly as possible, but those of you who get immediate notice of the posting or are Johnny-on-the-spot and read it as soon as I post it online will get to see all my gory and glorifying errors. Really quite shameful. Especially for an English major. We all know that spellcheckers and other such grammar tools cannot find all little errors. It takes time, it takes reflection on what you wrote, and  it takes rereading with a keen eye and ear. None of that seems to happen until I hit the publish button.

Catherine CollageWell, enough of that apologizing and self flagellation. Today’s exercise, number nineteen of thirty-one, is something that is near and dear to my heart, something that drives those who live with me nuts, for today I am asked to describe, “what do you collect?” That is both a dangerous and a broad subject.  We can start with the fact that I am a collector of all things involving around British cars. Not just the cars themselves you understand, but books about the cars, emblems from the cars, models of the cars, publicity posters, videos of the cars and car races, well I think you get the idea. Basically if I run across almost anything that has to do with old British cars I will collect it and try to find some spot for it in my home or office. The more esoteric the better.

If that’s not enough on the large side, I am also a train and trolley collector. Unfortunately I have no actual prototype real-size trains or trolleys (not that I haven’t tried), so I have to make up for that by collecting the same tonnage in model trains. Next week in fact I will be at the NMRA (National Model Railroad Association) convention in Atlanta for four days. My wife is going with me, and boy is she thrilled. And as is inevitable with a collection like this, not only do I collect the model trains and track and scenery and buildings that all go together to create a scene, I also collect the aforementioned books, movies, posters, belt buckles, and anything else you can think of that has to do railroading. Continue reading “The Collector – Exercise #19”