The Wander Society by Keri Smith

The Wander Society by Keri SmithThe Wander Society
by Keri Smith
Published by Penguin Books
on March 29, 2016
Genres: Nonfiction
Pages: 208
Format: Hardcover
Source: Purchased
Goodreads
Amazon
five-stars
wan·der
verb  \ˈwän-dər\
to walk/explore/amble in an unplanned or aimless way with a complete openness to the unknown

Several years ago when Keri Smith, bestselling author of Wreck This Journal, discovered cryptic handwritten notations in a worn copy of Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass, her interest was piqued. Little did she know at the time that those simple markings would become the basis of a years-long, life-changing exploration into a mysterious group known only as The Wander Society, as well as the subject of this book.

Within these pages, you’ll find the results of Smith’s research: A guide to the Wander Society, a secretive group that holds up the act of wandering, or unplanned exploring, as a way of life. You’ll learn about the group’s mysterious origins, meet fellow wanderers through time, discover how wandering feeds the creative mind, and learn how to best practice the art of wandering, should you choose to accept the mission.
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The Wanderers are Everywhere. 

Do you like to wander? Do you like to disconnect; from life, your phone, from everything – even just temporarily? Do you feel like you’ve lost touch with nature, yourself, with the world?

Then this book, this SOCIETY, may be for you.

It’s easy to do:

wanderprecepts

When we constantly fill up all our “empty” time with stimulation in the form of electronic devices, games, and distractions, our brains become disengaged and the thinking process is effectively halted. We never get to hear our own inner voice-we don’t develop a relationship with ourselves and our minds. We don’t get to know who we are because we’re not listening.

I find that I am too connected. I have to have my phone with me. I can get lost on the computer, for hours at a time. I do not want to be this way. I have started wandering. And I will wander more.

Join me?

The Dead Ladies Project + a personal challenge

The Dead Ladies Project + a personal challengeThe Dead Ladies Project: Exiles, Expats, and Ex-Countries
by Jessa Crispin
Published by University of Chicago Press
on September 22, 2015
Genres: Nonfiction
Pages: 248
Format: Paperback
Source: Purchased
Goodreads
five-stars
When Jessa Crispin was thirty, she burned her settled Chicago life to the ground and took off for Berlin with a pair of suitcases and no plan beyond leaving. Half a decade later, she’s still on the road, in search not so much of a home as of understanding, a way of being in the world that demands neither constant struggle nor complete surrender.

The Dead Ladies Project is an account of that journey—but it’s also much, much more. Fascinated by exile, Crispin travels an itinerary of key locations in its literary map, of places that have drawn writers who needed to break free from their origins and start afresh. As she reflects on William James struggling through despair in Berlin, Nora Barnacle dependant on and dependable for James Joyce in Trieste, Maud Gonne fomenting revolution and fostering myth in Dublin, or Igor Stravinsky starting over from nothing in Switzerland, Crispin interweaves biography, incisive literary analysis, and personal experience into a rich meditation on the complicated interactions of place, personality, and society that can make escape and reinvention such an attractive, even intoxicating proposition.

Personal and profane, funny and fervent, The Dead Ladies Project ranges from the nineteenth century to the present, from historical figures to brand-new hangovers, in search, ultimately, of an answer to a bedrock question: How does a person decide how to live their life?

Earlier this year, I read The Dead Ladies Project by Jessa Crispin (thanks to Kerri from Etymology of a Book Worm!). Crispin’s story has been stewing in my head and my heart ever since. Who hasn’t, at some point in their life, wanted to just burn it all down and start all over? Or, perhaps, end it all? What do you do? How do you survive that panic, that fear, that panic? If you’re Jessa Crispin, you turn it all in and go off, in search of – something. Just go off and find something else to do with your life. And, you know, sometimes…just sometimes…I get that feeling. That if I wasn’t tied down…if I wasn’t tied down by family and job and bills and had just a modicum of gumption – it is exactly the type of thing I would want to do. This idea, of selling of my life, breaking all ties, and roaming the world in search of the places where expats go to work, to live, to find themselves; is fascinating. What’s more:

“It was the dead I wanted to talk to. The writers and the artists and composers who kept me company in the late hours of the night: I needed to know how they did it. I’d always been attracted to the unloosed, the wandering souls who were willing to scrape their lives clean and start again elsewhere.”

Some small part of me is attracted to this too. That is attracted and wonders, fleetingly, what it’s like. To start all over.

I would never do it. But I’ll never stop wondering either.

And this idea, of picking someone, immersing myself in his or her life and ideas, his or her struggles and successes…. It just sounds fascinating.

I really want to do it.

So I am.

Don’t mistake me, I’ll be doing it in a very limited way. I’m going to pick someone, most likely dead, not necessarily an ex-pat, and learn about her (or perhaps him). I already have a list. I have books. I’m lining things up. And I’m super excited. I’m going on an adventure. And I can’t wait.

I have a long list of (mostly) ladies I want to learn more about, and I’m starting off with Beryl Markham. I plan to reread West with the Night, Markham’s memoir and Paula McLain’s Circling the Sun, a fictionalization of Markham’s life in Africa has a horse trainer and pilot.

Anyone you suggest for my list? 

The Shore by Sara Taylor

The Shore by Sara TaylorThe Shore
by Sara Taylor
Published by Hogarth
on May 26, 2015
Genres: Historical Fiction
Pages: 320
Source: Purchased
Goodreads
five-stars
Situated off the coast of Virginia's Chesapeake Bay, the group of islands known as the Shore has been home to generations of fierce and resilient women. Sanctuary to some but nightmare to others, it's a place they've inhabited, fled, and returned to for hundreds of years. From a half-Shawnee Indian's bold choice to flee an abusive home only to find herself with a man who will one day try to kill her to a brave young girl's determination to protect her younger sister as methamphetamine ravages their family, to a lesson in summoning storm clouds to help end a drought, these women struggle against domestic violence, savage wilderness, and the corrosive effects of poverty and addiction to secure a sense of well-being for themselves and for those they love.

I received this book for free from Purchased in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

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You know how sometimes you start a book and it feels like home? Sometimes it’s because it is so similar to home and sometimes you just feel like you belong there. For me, The Shore felt like home, probably because, being set in the South, it IS home. Taylor did an amazing job evoking the setting, the people, the absolute feeling – down to the cadence of words and, weirdly enough, accents – of living in the South.

I loved it. I loved the way the stories looped around each other, coming in to focus on one person, then another, then a family, or someone in the past, someone in the future, then back to the same person from the beginning; all told in short stories…. It just reminded me so much of what it is like being Southern (for me. I have no idea what life is like in other areas of the world). If the family gets together (at least in my family), so many generations are there, so many lost ones are discussed, with the future generation crawling around under your feet. It is how this book felt to me. Like a big family reunion with all the good, bad, and crazy invited in. Some of the family is mean, some are nice. Some are depressed and some are lecherous. Some would help y0u anyway they can and some would just as soon kill you as look at you.

See? Family.

Taylor is a terrific writer. I’ll be on the watch for more by her. Highly recommended.

Reading Notes: On a Long Walk with Stephen King

Reading Notes: On a Long Walk with Stephen KingThe Long Walk
by Stephen King
Published by Signet
on July 1979
Genres: Horror
Pages: 370
Format: eBook
Source: Purchased
four-half-stars
On the first day of May, 100 teenage boys meet for a race known as The Long Walk. If you break the rules, you get three warnings. If you exceed your limit, what happens is absolutely terrifying...

100 boys. 100 boys, assembled on a hill in Maine. They are from all over the country. They don’t know each other, have never even seen each other before. But they are about to embark on a journey, a journey where only one will come out alive, for they are to walk. Walk until there is only one boy left standing. Along the way, profound things will be learned, friendships will be made, and at the end…does anything really change?

I’m so take it or leave it with King. And it’s not because I don’t think he’s a fantastic writer. I do! I looooooved The Stand. I’m so terrified of The Shining that I am 99.9% sure I will never touch it, even with that proverbial 10-foot pole. I thought Misery was tolerable (I was a teen when I read it, so I really barely remember it). I adored his book On Writing. The movie Pet Sematary threatened my relationship with cats for quite some time and I am a cat. lover. In short, I’m never quite sure where I stand on the guy. Basically he warms by belly in anticipation and chills my blood with apprehension.

So, when I read this book was compared to The Hunger Games, I was unsurprisingly interested and wary.

And, as these sorts of comparisons usually go, I found it remarkably different from The Hunger Games and I was completely okay with that. In many ways, The Long Walk isn’t as political. The reader is never told exactly why these boys walk every year. There is no feeling that they are a sacrifice. There is no visible government, other than the Major and the soldiers who follow the boys, and kill them when they fall. There is obviously a winner and the winner does win a prize (seemingly of a large sum of money). The focus of The Long Walk is more on the boys, their thoughts, their feelings, the process of the long walk and what it does to their minds and bodies. I’ve never really thought about it, but walking, without stopping, at a certain speed, for a long period of time would wear on your body and your mind.

In short, I know I would go completely nuts.

This book was more thought-provoking and interesting than I anticipated and I’m actually really glad I read it. I’m glad Uncle Stevie and I are starting to see things the same way. I appreciated that nothing really changed. No governments were overtly challenged, no minds were changed (except those boys), and the reader can imagine that the same thing will happen next year, and the next, and the next. Sometimes things don’t have to be all wrapped up in a bow and I love the occasionally ending that embraces that. Way to go Uncle Stevie!

 

 

 

Alex + Ada, Volume One by Jonathan Luna

Alex + Ada, Volume One by Jonathan LunaAlex + Ada
Series: 1-5
by Jonathan Luna, Sarah Vaughn
Published by Image Comics
on July 16, 2014
Genres: Graphic Novel
Pages: 128
Format: eBook
Source: Purchased
Goodreads
five-stars
Collects ALEX + ADA #1-5. From JONATHAN LUNA (GIRLS, THE SWORD, ULTRA, Spider-Woman: Origin) and SARAH VAUGHN (Sparkshooter) comes ALEX + ADA, a sci-fi drama set in the near future. The last thing in the world Alex wanted was an X5, the latest in realistic androids. But after Ada is dropped into his life, he discovers she is more than just a robot.

Five reasons you need to read Alex + Ada. Like, right now:

1. The art is gorgeous. It’s plain jane, but well drawn, and for the story (at this point, anyway) I think it fits. Alex is sad. He’s depressed. And his world reflects that. And the story, while not original, it is a fresh take on it, if that makes sense. I mean, the execution is excellent. And you know, it’s not what you have, it’s all in how you use it. It is just so engaging.

2. Robots are boring. Super boring. Completely subservient, no will – absolute no will – of their own. No personality, no desire, no spark. Some people may think this is great! No more dishes, no more laundry! Others, those who see robots as more than that, have a Big Moral Dilemma to contend with. Fireworks!

3. The political and social tensions. People are terrified because the robots are becoming sentient and no one knows how it is happening. And just like in the real world, when people don’t understand something, they panic. And when they panic, bad things happen. And then the politicians get involved. OH SNAP.

4. Loneliness. This hit me so strongly. These characters have everything they could possibly have in subservient assistance. Alex, for instance, wakes up to a holographic tv screen that gives him the weather, the news report, and more. He has a robot (a very standard model) to make his breakfast, wash his clothes, put up his feet, etc. He has implants in his head that enable to him to tell all his appliances (and robot) to do this, do that, make the water this temperature, flush the toilet, call Grandma, etc. He doesn’t want for anything. Anything except basic human company. In this near future, everything seems solved, except loneliness. Depression. All our technological advances can’t solve this. Except maybe self-aware extremely lifelike robots?

5. Because I LOVES it! When have I ever steered you wrong? (Don’t answer that.)

Caveat Emptor: The Secret Life of an American Art Forger by Ken Perenyi

Caveat Emptor: The Secret Life of an American Art Forger by Ken PerenyiCaveat Emptor: The Secret Life of an American Art Forger
by Ken Perenyi
Published by Pegasus
on August 15th 2012
Genres: Autobiography, Nonfiction
Pages: 314
Format: eBook
Source: Purchased
Goodreads
two-stars
It is said that the greatest art forger in the world is the one who has never been caught—the astonishing story of America’s most accomplished art forger.

Ten years ago, an FBI investigation in conjunction with the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Southern District of New York was about to expose a scandal in the art world that would have been front-page news in New York and London. After a trail of fake paintings of astonishing quality led federal agents to art dealers, renowned experts, and the major auction houses, the investigation inexplicably ended, despite an abundance of evidence collected. The case was closed and the FBI file was marked “exempt from public disclosure.”

Now that the statute of limitations on these crimes has expired and the case appears hermetically sealed shut by the FBI, this book, Caveat Emptor, is Ken Perenyi’s confession. It is the story, in detail, of how he pulled it all off.

My mission: To review this book with a straight face. Because I STRAIGHT UP AM NOT KIDDING. I didn’t read it with a straight face.

I had all the laughs.

I don’t think it was on purpose.

Caveat Emptor is a conundrum. I keep thinking about how to tell you about this book. The author is telling his story, and the more I think on it, the more I feel like he is a terribly unreliable narrator. Of course, we’re all an unreliable narrator for our own lives, yes? We all tell our own version of events. We embellish. We gloss. We blur. We paint the picture of our lives, just like Mr. Perenyi did here.

And y’all. This dude. His ego. It is large.

I’m not saying he isn’t telling the truth in this book. He got up to some crazy stuff; crime, drugs, alcohol, sex, you name it, this dude did it. He got away with a lot of shit. He copied the artistic works of some pretty famous painters. And he got away with it. FOR YEARS. He made a TON of money.

Again. So he says.

Like I said, he may be telling the whole, complete, unbiased truth. If he is, his life was crazy. There came I point where I was just like, whoa, this is impossible to believe! How can one man get away with so many things???? And yeah, I had to laugh.

So, obviously, this book was good enough for me to finish. Perenyi is a decent writer. The story is out of this world big. It’s entertaining. It just depends on how big your capacity for bullshit is.

The Slow Regard of Silent Things by Patrick Rothfuss

The Slow Regard of Silent Things by Patrick RothfussThe Slow Regard of Silent Things
Series: Tales from Temerant, The Kingkiller Chronicle #2.5
by Patrick Rothfuss
Published by DAW
on October 28th 2014
Genres: Fantasy
Pages: 159
Format: Hardcover
Source: Purchased
five-stars
Deep below the University, there is a dark place. Few people know of it: a broken web of ancient passageways and abandoned rooms. A young woman lives there, tucked among the sprawling tunnels of the Underthing, snug in the heart of this forgotten place.

Her name is Auri, and she is full of mysteries.

The Slow Regard of Silent Things is a brief, bittersweet glimpse of Auri’s life, a small adventure all her own. At once joyous and haunting, this story offers a chance to see the world through Auri’s eyes. And it gives the reader a chance to learn things that only Auri knows...

In this book, Patrick Rothfuss brings us into the world of one of The Kingkiller Chronicle’s most enigmatic characters. Full of secrets and mysteries, The Slow Regard of Silent Things is the story of a broken girl trying to live in a broken world.

Some days simply lay on you like stones.

How does one review a book in a series that almost didn’t happen? How do you convince readers they have to read a book in a series, a book that is chronologically 2.5 in the series?

First, I start with saying you have to read the other books in the series. It’s a given. To know the characters, to know the place, and the time period, the world of the books, you have to read the series.

Secondly, I have to tell you, you could probably read this out of order or as a standalone. The character in this book appears in the other books, but none of the other characters do. She mentions a character from the other books a few times, but never by name. In the other books, she is a very small secondary character who doesn’t take up a lot of time or plot. She is merely a character the author felt the need to expand on. For more on why Rothfuss wrote the book, if you are interested, here is a blog post he wrote on it here.

To be so lovely and so lost. To be all answerful with all that knowing trapped inside. To be beautiful and broken.

Lastly, yes. Yes, I hear you. Why should you read this? Honestly, because it is…geez…how to describe it. It is just such a great character study. (To me, it felt like the chance to get inside the character as it exists in the author’s head.) It’s one character. It’s a week of her life. Wait, let’s back up. The character. Her name is Auri. She lives under the university. In the bowels, the basement, the place where all the pipes lead. Auri is a sad character in the grand scheme of things. She’s alone. She lives alone, under the university, scrounging for food on a daily basis. Yet, when you take a closer look, the picture is a little different. Yes, she’s alone, but she choses to be so. Auri knows she’s not…quite…right.

She felt the panic rising in her then. She knew. She knew how quickly things could break. You did the things you could. You tended to the world for the world’s sake. You hoped you would be safe. But still she knew. It could come crashing down and there was nothing you could do. And yes, she knew she wasn’t right. She knew her everything was canted wrong. She knew her head was all unkilter. She knew she wasn’t true inside. She knew.

God, y’all. This book is gorgeous. The writing is gorgeous. The character is gorgeous. If you’ve ever had a day when things didn’t feel quite right, that you felt maybe a little crazy, like you couldn’t live in the world; this book. I mean, you’ll understand it. You will get it.

But for half a minute she wished it was a different sort of day, even though she knew that nothing good could come from wanting at the world.

You won’t need to know the world this book lives in. You will connect with this character. This powerful, lost, sad young woman will get to you. I got it. I got her. I’ve been her. And, well…

She’d strayed from the true way of things. First you set yourself to rights. And then your house. And then your corner of the sky. And after that… Well, then she didn’t rightly know what happened next. But she hoped that after that the world would start to run itself a bit, like a gear-watch proper fit and kissed wit oil. That was what she hoped would happen.

As the author said:

“This story is for all the slightly broken people out there. I am one of you. You are not alone. You are all beautiful to me.”

An Untamed State by Roxanne Gay

An Untamed State by Roxanne GayAn Untamed State
by Roxanne Gay
Published by Grove Press
on May 6, 2014
Genres: Contemporary Fiction
Pages: 368
Format: eBook
Source: Purchased
Goodreads
five-stars
Mireille Duval Jameson is living a fairy tale. The strong-willed youngest daughter of one of Haiti’s richest sons, she has an adoring husband, a precocious infant son, by all appearances a perfect life. The fairy tale ends one day when Mireille is kidnapped in broad daylight by a gang of heavily armed men, in front of her father’s Port au Prince estate. Held captive by a man who calls himself The Commander, Mireille waits for her father to pay her ransom. As it becomes clear her father intends to resist the kidnappers, Mireille must endure the torments of a man who resents everything she represents.

An Untamed State is a novel of privilege in the face of crushing poverty, and of the lawless anger that corrupt governments produce. It is the story of a willful woman attempting to find her way back to the person she once was, and of how redemption is found in the most unexpected of places. An Untamed State establishes Roxane Gay as a writer of prodigious, arresting talent.

T.S Eliot described Nightwood’s (by Djuna Barnes) prose as “altogether alive” but also “demanding something of a reader that the ordinary novel-reader is not prepared to give.¹

This is how I feel about a book I just finished; An Untamed State by Roxanne Gay. It demanded something of me. However, unlike that “ordinary novel-reader,” I was prepared to give it. I went into the book knowing I would have to give something. And, by God, did I give.

Once upon a time, in a far-off land, I was kidnapped by a gang of fearless yet terrified young men with so much impossible hope beating inside their bodies it burned their very skin and strengthened their will right through their bones.
They held me captive for thirteen days.
They wanted to break me.
It was not personal.
I was not broken.
This is what I tell myself.

 An Untamed State is the story of Mireille Duval Jameson. She is a Haitian woman, a mother, a wife, a daughter, a sister, an immigration lawyer, and all around strong, confident woman. One day, while on vacation with her husband and young son, she is kidnapped by armed Haitian men and held ransom for one million dollars. The things that happen to her while waiting for that ransom are horrific. For thirteen days, she endures torment no one, man or woman, should have to face. It was personal. She was broken. No matter what she tells herself.

Roxanne Gay. What a writer. Seriously. She knows how to craft a sentence. She knows how to pack a punch. Reading her writing is glorious, despite the subject matter.

Like I said, I knew this would be a hard book to read. I had read reviews. I knew what was coming. However, when the book was on sale this holiday season, and Andi said she’d read it with me, I knew I had to read it. I knew it would hurt, but I also knew I would come out better on the other side.

This is something I’ve been thinking about quite a bit lately. Why do I (or anyone else for that matter) want to read books with difficult subject matter? I remember when I was a kid…. I was always a voracious reader. I read all the time. Time out in my room never bothered me; that’s where the books where! And I had a role model for this behavior. My grandmother. She read all  the time. After she retired, she could sit and read two books a day. And you know why? She read easy books. She subscribed to Harlequin. It was nothing for me to go get the mail and find a box (or two, or three) of 6 books in there waiting. When I was in high school, and reading all the books, I asked her. “Did you ever read these kind of books? The classics and stuff?” And she said yes. “But now I’m too old to put thought into my reading,” she added. She didn’t want to think.

I want to think.

I want to be challenged. I want to expand my world view. I want my brain to be hardwired differently by what I read. (Seriously, read that article. It’s fascinating.) I want to empathize. I want to understand. I want to learn.

An Untamed State was a great teacher. I can’t wait to find my next one. As Gustave Flaubert said, “Do not read, as children do, to amuse yourself, or like the ambitious, for the purpose of instruction. No, read in order to live.” (sorry, couldn’t resist a favorite quote…) (I feel kind of pretentious.) (Oh well.)

Favorite bits:

The sun was still out but fading into pink along the horizon. It was beautiful how the color stretched across the sky in sweeping arcs. I stared into that pink, wanted to remember everything about it, until a hand grabbed my elbow.

My parents are not warm people. They love hard and deep but you have to work to understand the exact nature of that love, to see it, to feel it. That day was the first time I realized my parents loved each other more than they loved us though I couldn’t know then the price I would pay for that love.

Sons are different, my mother says. They always look for home somewhere else. Daughters, though, a mother can count on. Daughters always come home.

What is truly terrifying is the exact knowledge of what will come and being unable to save yourself from it.

This is what I know-the body is built to survive.

My mother has often told me there are some things you cannot tell a man who loves you, things he cannot handle knowing. She adheres to the philosophy that it is secrets rather than openness that strengthen a relation ship between a woman and a man. She believes this even though she is an honest person. Honesty, she says, is not always about the truth.

So, a Little More on that Routine Thing…

by Mason Currey
Published by Knopf
Genres: Nonfiction
Source: Purchased

dailyroutineSo, I’m still making my way through Daily Rituals by Mason Currey. I hate to admit it, but it’s a slog. I am about to give myself permission to give it up, even though I’m slightly over halfway through. Like Amanda, some of my problems stem from the lack of balance between man and woman, white and not (and I mean, that is a LOT of my problem, there is basically no balance. If you want to know how a privileged white male finds time to write, this is your book) but, honestly? I think he included too many authors! There are 161 authors, composers, philosophers, poets, playwrights, scientists, mathematicians. After about 50 or so routines, it starts to loose it’s impact.

Where was Currey’s editor?

How did they not see they could have gotten 3 books out of this one?

Don’t they realize that sometimes a brief message is more powerful that one that goes on and on and on and on and on.

I wonder how many more people in this book get up early or late? How many take a walk (or three, like Dickens)? How many have a bit of fun with themselves before they get down to it (seriously Thomas Wolfe? I am NOT looking at you, but you know, I’m looking at you) (and Ben Franklin, with your air baths! Get own down with your bad self!). How many eat meals? Take naps? Sharpen their pencils? Set up the fridge as their desk (Geez, Thomas Wolfe, you were an odd duck).

Another bit of a peeve is the lack of 21st century authors. Yes, there are a few, but the majority of this book is 19th and 20th century writers. Couldn’t you find anyone alive Currey? I have to admit, I am a little more interested in how the creative types of TODAY juggle their routines that those who lived lives of leisure 200 years ago. Times, uh, they have a-changed.

Despite these quibbles though, there is a lot of good information in this book. A couple more favorites:

 “The repetition itself becomes the important thing; it’s a form of mesmerism. I mesmerize myself to reach a deeper state of mind.”  – Haruki Murakami

And I think I’m OCD:

The founder of behavioral psychology treated his daily writing sessions much like a laboratory experiment, conditioning himself to write every morning with a pair of self-reinforcing behaviors: he started and stopped by the buzz of a timer, and he carefully plotted the number of hours he wrote and the words he produced on a graph. – B. F. Skinner

Actually, I can totally see myself doing that. Heck, I DID do that when I tried to do NaNoWriMo.

I love this from Joan Miró i Ferrà, a Catalan painter:

Miró hated for this routine to be interrupted by social or cultural events. As he told an American journalist, “Merde! I absolutely detest all openings and parties! They’re commercial, political, and everybody talks too much. They get on my tits!

Love it. LOVE. IT. I am totally breaking that line out at parties.

But really, the best piece of advice from the whole book is this, from Chuck Close, another painter:

“Inspiration is for amateurs,” Close says. “The rest of us just show up and get to work.”

And really, that’s all we really need do, right?

Thoughts on Robot Dreams by Sara Varon

Thoughts on Robot Dreams by Sara VaronRobot Dreams
by Sara Varon
Published by First Second
on August 7, 2007
Genres: Fantasy, Graphic Novel
Pages: 208
Format: Paperback
Source: Purchased
Goodreads
Amazon
four-half-stars
Richly endearing and full of surprises, Robot Dreams follows an ill-fated friendship between a dog and robot. After a Labor Day jaunt to the beach leaves Robot rusty and immobilized in the sand, Dog, unsure what to do, abandons him. As the seasons pass, Dog tries to replace his friend, making and losing a series of new ones, from a melting snowman to epicurean anteaters. Meanwhile, Robot passes his time daydreaming, escaping to better places...Through interwoven journeys, the two characters long to recover from their day at the beach. 

Although its adorable characters and playful charm will win over young readers, Robot Dreams speaks universally to the fragile nature of friendship, loss, and redemption.

There is something magical about an effective story told with no words. Pixar, Shaun Tan, and now Sara Varon, have moved me beyond measure with their work that uses art instead of words. Looking at that cover…I don’t know about you, but my immediate thoughts are that this is a kids book. And yes, it is. My daughter enjoyed it. However, it is one of those books that is deceptive. It looks simple. It IS simple. But the story…it packs a punch.

The reason this story works for me is, even though it is fantastical (at least for me it is. Do you own a robot? A walking, human-like dog? If so, were do you get such things???), it is relatable. The dog. He is lonely. He wants a friend. So he buys a robot. He puts him together. He has a friend! So they go to the beach. And something bad happens. The pair are separated. Feelings are hurt. Actions are regretted. Through no fault of the dog, more like a lack of knowledge, the robot is hurt. Irreparably.

Kids can relate. I can relate. You can, probably, relate.

And it sounds sad. But no. No! It is beautiful!

Through this mistake, the dog and the robot learn. The dog learns from his mistakes. He comes to know himself better and changes based on the hurt he caused himself and his robot. In turn, the robot also learns. As he lays there, daydreaming is days away, he learns about himself and changes based on the hurt he received. They become better “people.” A lesson for everyone, not just children.

Again, I stand amazed at the power in this tiny book with no words. And Sara Varon has a diehard new fan. First Second is such a terrific publisher!