Friday, June 27, 2014

Tales of a Social Butterfly

Well, it sure seems like I struck a chord with that androgyny post. As this is my personal blog, I'm not surprised that my posts never get tons of hits. I expect that normally the only people reading are my friends and family, and the occasional stranger who stumbles across it. (Hi, occasional stranger!) Around 60 hits is the high end for most of the posts on this blog--I expect the average is somewhere around 40, although I haven't done the math. Point is, the androgyny post has 183 hits and counting. I think we know what this means: I've clearly tapped into some primeval human longing for gender-bending that our society has stifled, because I'm just that good. Becky Robison: addressing the serious issues, one blog post at a time.

I'm kidding, obviously. Though I do like it when I have more time to write introspective posts instead of simple recaps of my week. They're a challenge--a fun challenge--for me to write, and I suspect they may be more interesting for you to read. During the school year it's often too busy, so they usually happen on breaks. I'll have to make an effort to write them more frequently.

And on that note, a recap of my week. I may not have had much to do when I first arrived in Los Angeles, but my social calendar has quickly filled up--so much so this week that I kind of wish I could just lay in bed for a night and do nothing. I guess that's what next week is for. I'm going to tackle this one in bullet points to keep myself from rambling:
  • The Janelle Monae concert Sunday night was ridiculously good. If you're looking for James Brown's successor, do not look to a man--Ms. Monae has arrived to fill his place. She absolutely killed it. And at one point, she brought out STEVIE WONDER to sing with her, and I was so excited my little 60's gogo girl self almost cried.
  • Tuesday evening I went to Nightswim again. Katie didn't come this time. It was a tad overwhelming to be in such a large crowd where I barely knew anyone, but I'm still glad I went. Talked to Skye and Erin and Pam, who I karaoked with last Saturday. Oh--did I mention that on here? Last Saturday I went karaokeing with Crushee people. It was great! I tried Britney Spears' "Toxic" for the first time, as Pam and I were having a Britney-off, and I'm pretty sure I nailed it. 
  • Wednesday evening Katie, Seth, and I went to Mindshare LA's "Outer Space/Inner Space" event at Cross Campus in Santa Monica, which was basically a cocktail party for science. A Wired journalist talked about data mining, a lively postdoctoral student talked about plasmas and why we should fund research on them, and an oceanographer talked about psychedelic drugs and altering consciousness, among other presentations. I learned a lot, but the thing that really sticks with me is that Santa Monica is the worst place to park. Ever. 
Last night I didn't go out, but I was catching up on ABIS work for hours. Tonight it's Seth's birthday party at a video game bar downtown, so that should be fun. 

What else? Oh, something funny happened on Crushee. Annaliese, the woman who founded the site, is organizing a new very-high-class-very-fancy event that will take place on Mondays at some very-high-class-very-fancy place in Hollywood. Guest list and dress code strictly enforced, etc. The type of thing I normally wouldn't ever attend. So the other day on Crushee she asked people to suggest names for this event. The thread was long, and I suggested five names. And it turns out, they picked one of mine. I think it's the most boring one I suggested: High Society. I mean, that's just the name of an old movie/a common phrase, but I guess they liked it. 

Look, that's just how I roll, okay? Naming exclusive cocktail events in major world cities. I move somewhere, I immediately establish myself in the most elite social circles, and I take the city by storm. By which I mean I move somewhere and I get bored and then I Google stuff to do.

I have nothing to wear to this event, so Katie and I are going shopping on Sunday.

Yesterday someone called me an extrovert. Am I an extrovert? I don't feel like an extrovert. For a long time in my life I was so shy that I'd barely talk to anyone except my closest friends. I slowly started getting over that as a teenager--emphasis on slowly--but I still don't think I'm that good at talking to people, or that I'm loud or anything. (Except when I karaoke. Then I am loud.) I certainly go out and do things a lot, but that's largely because I tend to be less anxious if I keep myself constantly busy. I feel as though most of my human interactions are still horribly awkward--I express myself much better in writing than I do when speaking--but I've come to terms with the fact that awkward is a fundamental element of life for me. People complain about situations being awkward, and I think, "that isn't just every day for you?" 

I don't know. Maybe I'm not as awkward as I think I am. (And I really think I am!) But I've never actively thought of myself as an extrovert before. Strange.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Oh! You Pretty Things

The title of this post is a (fantastic--but does that need saying as they're all fantastic?) David Bowie song. I am going to talk about David Bowie in this post, but first I want to talk about another artist. I GOT TICKETS TO SEE JANELLE MONAE AT THE HOLLYWOOD BOWL TONIGHT! I am so excited, because I love her music, and they're cheap seats so I won't be able to see a damn thing, but I don't care, because I love her music, and she's going to sing, and she's going to dance, and did I mention that I'm excited? Now that I got all the gushing out of the way, I'm going back to David Bowie. Actually, Janelle Monae is related to the topic of this post, too. And she clearly appreciates David Bowie, as evidenced by her amazing cover of "Heroes." It all fits.

This post is not about music. It's about androgyny.

As most of you have probably guessed from my significantly-more-than-mild David Bowie obsession, I find androgyny and gender-bending attractive. I've been thinking about this a lot lately based on conversations I've had with some of my friends. For instance, Friday night Katie and I were talking about the appeal of androgyny before the burlesque show began, and she asked me if I'd ever been with a woman.

Nope. I don't have any real desire to, either--at least not at this point in my life.

What I mean when I say that I'm attracted to androgyny and gender-bending is that I enjoy the blending of male and female features. I find David Bowie attractive because he is clearly a man, but he wears makeup and stereotypically feminine clothing.

Pretty! Also, I would very much like to own this leotard.

I find Janelle Monae attractive because she is clearly a woman, but she knows how to rock a well-tailored suit. 
Dapper as fuck. And adorable!

I try to nod to this aesthetic in my own appearance as well, although I don't take it to any sort of extreme. I've got curves for days, which I love, but one of the many reasons I chopped off all my hair is that I like pairing my ultra-feminine body with a boyish haircut. I shared these pictures of myself on Instagram the other night because I felt the juxtaposition was working particularly well for me--in other words, I looked super hot.

The thing is, it's the blend itself that I find attractive. When a man looks so much like a woman that I have no idea it's a man, I'm not attracted to that person--though I am incredibly impressed by his drag skills. Let's examine this further in pictures, shall we?

The inestimable Tim Curry as Dr. Frank-N-Furter: attractive
He sees us shiver with antici............................pation.

Recent RuPaul's Drag Race runner-up Courtney Act: gorgeous, but not attractive (to me)
Serving up fish on a platter.

One thing to acknowledge is the difference between aesthetic and sexual attraction. I almost always find androgyny aesthetically pleasing. Am I sexually attracted to androgynous people? Definitely. But mostly the men, because men don't have to be androgynous for me to be attracted to them, because I'm heterosexual. Although I wish more non-androgynous men would play around with gender-bending! What a pretty world that would be. 
Just learn to apply it a little better, Fassy!

Now, if a woman were to look so much like a man that I didn't know she was a woman, I might very well be sexually attracted to her--but only because I thought she was a man. And sometimes I am sexually attracted to androgynous women, even though I know they're women, because I like that they play up those male features. But there's an element of fantasy there. As I was discussing with Leta, most people fantasize about things that they wouldn't necessarily do when it came right down to it. Fantasies are fun. Plus, I'm a writer; I imagine scenarios virtually every minute of the day, most of which are not at all sexual in nature and usually have to do with conversations I wish I were having with people, some of whom are fictional and some of whom are not.

Yes, I am a total weirdo.

The point is, barring any unforeseen circumstances (and here we'd have to go into my wish to live in a world where people didn't have to sexually identify as anything at all, but that's another blog post for another time), I don't see myself having sex with a lady any time soon, even if she is attractive in her androgyny. What can I say? I'm boring.

Occasionally I feel uncomfortable with my attraction to androgynous women--not because I feel that it's wrong to be attracted to women, but precisely because I am primarily heterosexual and my attraction lies within the realm of fantasy. Have you heard of Woman Crush Wednesday? #WCW? It's a hashtag on Twitter, where people tweet about their favorite women, and many women tweet about how beautiful they think other women are, and so on. I have talked to lesbian women who object strongly to the use of the term "woman crush"--if you're a woman who is truly attracted to another woman, then you should just admit that you have a crush on them, and if you're not truly attracted to another woman then you shouldn't be using the term "crush" at all. They find the term "woman crush" to be offensive because it implies that you need a qualifier for women to have a crush on other women, that there's something unnatural about women having crushes on other women. Personally, I'm not so invested in the term "woman crush" either way; I don't think I've ever posted a #WCW tweet. But the idea of lesbians calling out the legitimacy of primarily heterosexual women's attractions to other women is exactly what makes me uncomfortable, because they may have a point. Am I a fraud because I probably wouldn't go through with it?

At this point in my conversation with Leta, when I was frantically babbling about my insecurities regarding this matter, she suggested that people really shouldn't be policing other people's attractions/fantasies anyway. This is why I love Leta: she always comes through with common sense. I think it's okay for me to be attracted to androgynous women in terms of fantasy, even though I identify as heterosexual. I don't intend to be disrespectful towards the LGBTQIA community in any way, which is why I don't identify as bisexual--I don't think my attractions to androgynous women are strong enough to justify the term.

My other fear regarding my attraction to androgyny and gender-bending is that I may not be attracted to it at all, but rather to confidence. It takes a lot of guts to say "fuck you" to social gender norms, and confidence is always sexy. But Leta also made a good point here: there are plenty of aesthetic choices people make to say "fuck you" to society, many of which I'm not attracted to even remotely. Like juggalos, for instance. Doesn't do it for me. At all. Ever. So it must be something more than confidence that attracts me to androgyny and gender-bending.

Anyway, I guess I wanted to write all this because it helps me to parse out and organize my own thoughts. I hope you don't find it too dull. As with most of my introspective posts (and most of my posts in general), I'd be happy to hear your thoughts on the subject. Now you'll have to excuse me, as I need to figure out the most efficient way to get to the Hollywood Bowl.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Living with a Wolf

What do you do when the sweet, fluffy dog you're taking care of turns out to be a wild animal? The other day I found a dead bird on the front porch that she'd slaughtered. Today it's a squirrel in the backyard. It seems like I should scold her, but it's a bit late for that. I feel kind of like Betty Draper on the episode of Mad Men where her dog eats one of her neighbor's pigeons, and then later she takes a gun and starts shooting at the rest of them. Except that I don't have a gun, nor do I have any desire to shoot animals. It's more the dog-eating-other-animals thing.

I did end up getting my cartilage pierced. They had a Tuesday piercing deal, which was awesome. I forgot that piercings are the opposite of tattoos in that they hurt more after you get them than they do during the actual process. It's fine now, but Tuesday night/Wednesday morning I was in some pain, especially because the hairstylist I went to snagged her comb in them despite multiple warnings from me. Oh well.

Nightswim was an experience, to say the least. It's strange to go to a party where you continuously introduce yourself like this: "Hi! I'm Becky. I think we're friends on the internet." Nevertheless, it was fun. The Crushee community in L.A. seems rad overall. I did feel a tad out of place--this party was what I imagine a stereotypical "L.A. party" must be, or what it would be in a movie. It was at the pool at The Roosevelt Hotel in Hollywood, and a basic cocktail was $12, and everyone was ultra-trendy and attractive. I did not feel quite ultra-trendy and attractive enough, even though I was wearing my most ultra-trendy and attractive dress. I'm afraid my midwesternness was showing.

I'm exaggerating, of course. I had a great time. Talked to lots of nice and interesting people. It seems to be a generally artistic community, lots of punk aesthetic, etc. I probably fit in more than I realize. I'm planning on going again this Tuesday.

I'm writing this story, and it's already 10 pages long. I'm proud of myself, since it's difficult for me to write anything that's not flash fiction, but I don't know how it's going to end, and that scares me. Maybe it's a good thing, though; if I don't know how it's going to end, certainly an audience won't, which means that it won't be cliche? Hopefully?

Tonight: video game burlesque with Katie. I haven't been to a burlesque show in ages, so I can't wait. Nerds! Boobs! A surefire recipe for an enjoyable evening.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Happy Belated Bloomsday

Have I mentioned that I'm reading James Joyce's Ulysses? That this is my idea of fun? I don't think it's as hard to read as everyone makes it out to be, at least not so far. There are loads of academic websites with annotations to the text, so the most obscure references are easily explained. It probably helps that I took that Irish Lit class during my undergrad. My main concern is that right now I've been splitting each chapter over two days, which is fine. But the chapters must get longer, right? Considering how long the book is and how few chapters there are? I guess we'll see. Anyway, yesterday was Bloomsday, the celebration of the day on which Leopold Bloom begins his journey through Dublin, so I saved Chapter 4--the chapter in which we leave Stephen Dedalus and Bloom is actually introduced--for last night. I've been reading it before bed. I know, I'm totally the most interesting person on the planet.

On an entirely different note, do you think that if I got a piercing as research for a story I could write it off in my taxes? Just kidding. I am writing a story that involves a piercing, though, and I've been wanting to get my cartilage pierced for a while. My main deterrent has been that piercings are such a pain to care for, compared to tattoos at least. But I've been buying all these ear cuffs because I like having some jewelry up there, even though ear cuffs kind of hurt. You have to pinch them so they stay on right, at least on my ears. Seems to make more sense to just get them pierced, n'est-ce pas?

This is what happens when I'm left alone for too long: I get bored and plan body modifications. If my social life doesn't pick up soon I'll come back to Vegas unrecognizable!

I did go to Katie's the other night to watch the Game of Thrones finale. I can't believe they didn't do the one thing we book-readers all thought they'd do! Next season, hopefully. Katie and I decided that one day, after I have become a famous author, she and I will create and release an annotated version of the A Song of Ice and Fire series, in which we use color coded notes to indicate major changes in the television series, slight changes in the television series, changes in the television series that are good, and changes in the television series that are stupid. Because we are clearly the arbiters of good taste when it comes to Game of Thrones.

Katie said something to me the other day that I can't stop thinking about. She invited me to see a play based on My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, and I told her that I'd definitely go if she couldn't find a more hardcore MLP fan to go with her, since I don't actually watch it. And she responded: "I just know you really like subcultures."

I guess I do really like subcultures, although I never thought about it that way before. I've always considered myself to be a lover of people, and that means I'm a lover of diversity. I'm a lover of surprises, and humans never fail to surprise. I suppose I do tend to find myself among subcultures of one kind or another--punk, D&D, various fandoms, sexual/gender subcultures (I don't consider homosexuality or trans*/queerness to be a subculture, just to clarify. Those are identities, parts of one's self. There is much debate over whether things like polyamory and BDSM should be considered sexual orientations/identities as opposed to subcultures, and when it comes to that, I tend to err on the side of: if an individual considers it part of his/her/zir identity, then I do, too), and so on--but so many people I know are involved in one or more of these subcultures that I don't think of them as particularly odd. On the other hand, I might be living in a bubble world; it is possible that I participate in/surround myself with so many people who participate in these subcultures that I don't realize how outside of the norm it is. I guess it's normal for me, either way.

Food for thought.

Tonight Katie and I are going to Nightswim, so I get to meet some of my Crushees in person! Excited about that. New friends! More on that later.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Baby, You Can Drive My Car

Seriously, that would be preferable at this point. I've been spending far more time than I would like behind the wheel. Yesterday, on my way back from the climbing gym, I got stuck in not one, but two stand-still traffic jams, one on an interstate and one on a major road. This was at noon. Beep-beep, yeah.

Kenzie and Alex are on a two-week trip to Europe, so Penny-the-dog and I have the house to ourselves. It's quiet. They're such adults, with their house and their garden. I feel like I can't write any more of my domestic abject poems here because there's nothing gross in their home. So clean! So well-cared-for! A paradigm of young American domesticity. And they've left it all in my hands--me, the queen of "how does a stove work again?" and "what's the point of making my bed when I'm just going to sleep in it again tonight?" and "can I Google how to sew on a button?" I'm exaggerating. Kind of. Ugh, I really hope I don't accidentally kill the garden.

I am, of course, making an effort to get out of the house and explore LA/meet people. The other night I had sushi for dinner with Katie, and we may have purchased pints of ice cream and watched a movie afterwards. Because we're definitely adults with goals and things. At her urging, I joined a social networking site called Crushee. The idea is that it's sort of an online house party; once the community approves your profile, you can interact with anyone. If someone seems cool, you can "crush" on them, and then if they "crush" you back, you will have a mutual crush and you can privately message each other if you want. The people on the site also organize events in various locales so Crushee members can meet in person. One of the site founders lives in LA, so every Tuesday there's an event called Nightswim at a rooftop pool in Hollywood. Katie says it's fun, so I think we're going this week. Rumor has it that Kit Harrington was in attendance last time, although Katie didn't actually see him, but I mean it's my duty as a Game of Thrones fan to locate and seduce Jon Snow, right? Isn't that how this works? Anyway, Crushee is a total time-suck, but it's fun. Overall the community seems nice.

Last night I decided I had to go out and do something because it was Friday and I'm young, or whatever. Fortunately, I discovered that Electric Six was playing The Roxy. Though I've done it before, it's still a bit weird to go to concerts alone. Nevertheless, I figured that maybe I'd end up talking to people, and if not, at least I'd still get to hear some good bands. And I did talk to people! I met a nice couple, a man who works in IT and his girlfriend who's an economics grad student, and their friend from San Francisco. Then, of course, I did not exchange numbers with them, so now I will probably never see them again. I'm too shy. Also, I didn't want to impose. We talked a little after the show, and then we said goodbye, but I didn't want to come off as a desperate creep or anything. "Hey I have no friends WANNA BE FRIENDS?!?! HERE'S MY NUMBER! CALL ME MAYBE!" Ick. Making friends is an awkward situation all-around when you don't have a mutual friend to introduce you, or an MFA program where you're together every day and you all have the same interests. I'll keep working on it.

On the bright side, the show was great. This local band, Irontom, opened first. They seemed quite young; they were probably at least 21, but they looked like they could play high schoolers in a 90's teen comedy. They made hilarious facial expressions, and their music was dancey and fun. They did a killer cover of "Feel Good Inc." by Gorillaz. Next was Yip Deceiver: basically two men, the occasional instrument, and a synthesizer. I think one or both of them are actually members of Of Montreal. I liked them, too. Finally, Electric Six, who were just as ridiculous as I expected. If you have never watched the videos for "Danger! High Voltage!" or "Gay Bar," you're doing life wrong. Please remedy this now. Dick Valentine has the stage presence of a drunk lounge singer who no longer gives a fuck, although his voice, loud and raspy, suggests otherwise. Their drummer is fantastic. For the encore, Electric Six and Yip Deceiver joined forces for a danceable cover of Fleetwood Mac's "Everywhere." I certainly enjoyed myself, and I think the rest of the audience would say the same.

Probably going to take it easy today. Write. Work out. Maybe make some lemonade--I have a ton of ripe lemons from Kenzie and Alex's lemon tree. Like, an absurd amount. I don't know what else to do with them. Can I Google how to make lemonade?

Tuesday, June 10, 2014


I suppose you all would like to hear about my first day at Les Figues, since that's the entire reason I came out here. I think I can sum it up concisely:

I read a book at work.

Who could complain about that? It was perfect. Yesterday I drove over to the lovely old home whose basement the Les Figues offices occupy. It's quite close to where Mackenzie and Alex live, so I don't have to wake up early--something I always appreciate. I had time to make myself breakfast and tea and everything. Tea. It's like I was a real adult person or something.

After a brief tour and some paperwork, Andrew (the managing editor of Les Figues, Editor in Chief of The Offending Adam, and UNLV MFA program alum) handed Sara (another intern) and I copies of a manuscript, and we set to work proofreading. Obviously, I can't tell you anything about said story, except that I enjoyed it and I will definitely recommend it to certain people I know when it is released. Or everyone. I guess I could just recommend it to everyone.

We ate lunch outside beneath a shady tree, we went back inside and kept proofreading. Later we typed up our proofreading notes, and then we wrote descriptions of the aforementioned manuscript for potential future promotional purposes. At the end of the day, we were each presented with a tote bag (tote bag! what I'm just mildly obsessed with tote bags it's fine). And then the magic proclamation:

In lieu of pay, we are allowed to take home promotional copies of whatever books we choose.

More dangerous words have never been uttered.

I only took one yesterday (Sawako Nakayasu's book of flash fiction? poetry? might be the same thing? The Ants), but I'm sure I'll help myself to a few more in the future. "A few" being a gross understatement.

And no I can't take books for you, greedy readers! I strongly encourage you to purchase them, though. I mean, just look at all these fascinating, beautifully-designed volumes. How could you resist?

Anyway, my first day was delightful. I'm excited to head back to work on Thursday. It may be an unpaid internship, but for once I'm doing something I love at work. It gives me hope; maybe, one day, someone will pay me to read stuff. What a dreamy thought.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Young Adults

How has LA been? Just dandy. Yesterday I stayed in bed all day and binge-watched True Detective. I liked it, but I felt the end was anti-climactic. Today I took a six-mile walk. I saw a decaying house, a yard full of metal giraffes, a bike bent and nailed to a tree. I also passed several gorgeous mansions on Adams, many of which appeared to be owned by something called the "Movement of Spiritual Inner Awareness." I assumed it was just one of those wacko cults that rich people join, and hey, Wikipedia informs me that I am correct! Why are people with money so gullible?

Anyway, that's not what I wanted to write about. I've been following the internet chatter about two recently-published articles: Ruth Graham's "Against YA" on Slate, and Mark Shrayber's response on Jezebel, "Hey, Everyone! Read Whatever the Fuck You Want!" I find the discussion intriguing, so I thought I'd throw in my two cents.

Essentially, everyone is mad at poor Ruth Graham for suggesting that adults should not want to read Young Adult fiction, that they shouldn't find it satisfying. Ultimately, I'm more on Shrayber's side; as long as you're reading, what business of mine is it what you read, YA or otherwise? However, I feel that people are missing some of the subtleties of Graham's argument. She brings up some interesting points.

First, I should say that I've read my fair share of YA fiction, as a young adult and as an adult. I'm an old lady, so my adolescence was filled with the Harry Potter series and Tamora Pierce's The Song of the Lioness quartet as opposed to Twilight and Divergent. This is not to say I haven't read Twilight, though--I'm afraid I did read that whole series, every poorly-written word, in 2009 when I was 21. In my defense (assuming I need one), I was in China at the time, and English-language books that weren't just about China were somewhat hard to come by. My roommate had the whole Twilight set. Furthermore, I was going to stop after the first two, but then I googled how the series ended and I thought to myself: "No. Somebody could not have actually written a plot that stupid. I must see for myself." And it was true! Gloriously, gloriously stupid. I don't want to spoil anything for you if you choose to read it one day, but I would definitely put the series in the category of "so bad it's good." I mean, except for the part where it kind of condones abusive relationships. That's not so good.

I've also read The Hunger Games--I liked the first book, but the trilogy petered out from there--and the Fifty Shades of Grey books. Do those count as YA books? Probably not. I was mad at those ones. The writing was atrocious, and they weren't sex positive at all. But that's another story. I'd like to get to Divergent one of these days--dystopian future Chicago sounds like it would be fun to read about.

Does reading these books mean I have poor taste? If so, then the rest of the book-buying population does, too. Mostly I read them because I want to see what all the buzz is about when they do get so popular. I did the same thing with Stieg Larsson's The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo series, although that is obviously not YA fiction. Mostly, though, the YA fiction that I truly love is the YA fiction I read as a young adult. I. Love. Harry. Potter. LOVE. This will never change. I will continue to re-read the Harry Potter series for as long as I live. And as Leta and Gena know only too well, to this day I am adamant that George, that charming, roguish thief, was the correct choice for Alanna. On the other hand, I do not love Twilight. I doubt I'll ever read those books again, unless it's for some very good reason that is not yet known to me.

At one point in her article, Graham writes:

"But crucially, YA books present the teenage perspective in a fundamentally uncritical way. It's not simply that YA readers are asked to immerse themselves in a character's emotional life--that's the trick of so much great fiction--but that they are asked to abandon the mature insights into that perspective that they (supposedly) have acquired as adults. When chapter after chapter in Eleanor & Park ends with some version of 'He'd never get enough of her,' the reader seems to be expected to swoon. But how can a grown-up, even one happy to be reminded of the shivers of first love, not also roll her eyes?"

I agree with this. When I'm reading new YA fiction now, most of the time I think it's pretty awful. Sure, these authors often know how to spin a good, compelling, fast-paced yarn (and that may be all that matters), but often I become critical not only of the manner in which they are written, but of the simplicity of the relationships and conflicts. If I like a YA series now, I'm more inclined to throw it into the "so bad it's good" category. There are occasional exceptions. I've never read The Fault in Our Stars, but I hear it has a lot of heart. The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation was quite well-done--although perhaps it says something that I never bothered to pick up the sequel.

I never feel this way about Harry Potter, but I suspect that's because I grew up reading it. I was going through adolescence while all the characters in the book were also going through adolescence, so the relationships in the books seemed to make sense. I sometimes wonder whether I'd like Harry Potter so much if I picked it up now for the first time. I don't think I'd call it "so bad it's good"--I feel that J.K. Rowling is a better writer than that, at least in terms of world-building--but you never know. I may just be sentimental.

Later, Graham makes this point:

"But I remember, when I was a young adult, being desperate to earn my way into the adult stacks; I wouldn't have wanted to live in a world where all the adults were camped out in mine. There's a special reward in that feeling of stretching yourself beyond the YA mark, akin to the excitement of graduating out of the kiddie pool and the rest of the padded trappings of childhood: It's the thrill of growing up."

I agree with this as well. My whole life I was itching to read beyond my reading level; I remember in first and second grade I enjoyed reading Goosebumps, but it wasn't long before I wanted so badly to move onto R.L. Stine's Fear Street series, largely because I knew it was for older kids (so it must be scarier!). I read the Sherlock Holmes mysteries for the first time in seventh grade, and I loved them. I still do. I love lots of adult literature, even long, Victorian novels like Jane Eyre, and though I can't say I particularly liked Thomas Pynchon's Gravity's Rainbow, I can confidently assert that I enjoyed the challenge of reading it--a challenge that YA fiction could never provide, simply because of its nature.

Ultimately, I don't think this has to be an either-or situation. Read YA fiction! Read adult fiction! Read whatever you damn well please! Read it all! And I don't think that the recent boom in YA fiction is in any way dangerous to adult fiction or the classics. Charles Dickens isn't going anywhere. (Actually, I think Charles Dickens is horribly dull, except for his villains. Maybe he should go somewhere.) I think, though, that people have been a bit too harsh in their responses to Ruth Graham. I believe she is correct in her (somewhat obvious) assertion that YA fiction is not as sophisticated as adult fiction, and that you're missing out on something wonderful and important if all you read is YA fiction. That is, however, your choice. And quite frankly, the masses could do worse than Harry Potter and The Hunger Games. They might not be able to do worse than Twilight, though. That might be a literature low, even if it is so-bad-it's-good.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Settling In

I write to you, my friends, from Mackenzie and Alex's guest bedroom, which is my bedroom for the summer. It is far bigger than my bedroom in Vegas, and when Kenzie and Alex are gone at work during the day, I have the entire house to myself, which is a strange sensation. It's quiet--almost too quiet, even if I play music. I suspect I'm going through people withdrawal. In the MFA program we're around each other constantly. Now none of those people are here, and I'm in a giant city where I know a grand total of three people. Well, that's not entirely true. I know a grand total of three people well. I know two more people not-quite-as-well. I'm going to have to fix that, or I might go insane. I've become something of a social butterfly in recent years, not because I'm necessarily an extrovert but because it helps my anxiety a great deal. I need to develop a circle. Yeah. Talking to strangers. Party.

I almost talked to a stranger last night, but I was too slow on the uptake. I went to see Mackenzie's kickball team play, a) because I love Mackenzie, b) because I've never seen a kickball game, and c) because I need to force myself to get used to driving in this city. (The driving's not actually too terrible. It's similar to Chicago driving, but with skinnier lanes and people who are extremely displeased if you don't know where you're going and/or if you don't know how to parallel park. Which I don't. Either. Learning the hard way.) Let me tell you, she is one feisty little team captain. They got creamed, but the team they were playing has gone to the national championship before--which is apparently in Vegas?--so it wasn't a fair fight. Afterwards we went to this bar, The Happy Ending, where I learned to play a drinking game called "Honeycomb." Fortunately (unfortunately?) I was rather good at it, so I barely drank anything at all.

Anyway, the point is, a tall fellow with glasses from another kickball team approached me at the bar and complimented my Twin Peaks shirt. I told him I got it from Threadless, and then I spectacularly failed to introduce myself or exchange numbers with him because I am an idiot. Oh well. I'll get 'em next time.

I might be able to meet some people at the climbing gym as well, because I'm a member of one of those now. I wouldn't want to lose what little upper-body strength I've built up over the past month and a half, would I? It's this place called Hangar 18; I went there today to see if I liked it, and happily I believe it will work out nicely. It's about 20 minutes away from Kenzie and Alex's, but according to Kenzie everything in LA is 20 minutes away, all the time, regardless of where you are. So the commute is fine, especially if I go in the middle of the day. The staff is friendly, and they have four auto-belays, and each route is marked with different color holds instead of different color tape, which I appreciate since I always have trouble seeing the tape. The best part is that a month membership is only $28 for students, and it includes gear rental. Super cheap. They have yoga classes that I could take there, too, and various climbing-related classes. I'm hoping that I make some friends there, actually, since I could climb way more routes if I had someone to belay me. I'm determined to climb a 5.9 by the end of the summer.

I had fun driving back from the gym today because I got to coast quickly downhill. I like that there are so many hills here. It's pretty, and not like Illinois at all. Not like Vegas, either, for that matter. Sure, Vegas is surrounded by mountains, but the city itself is in a valley. It's fairly flat. LA isn't like that at all. If gas weren't so expensive and if traffic weren't so bad, I'd probably spend lots of time just driving around in my convertible, learning the lay of the land.

I shouldn't have said that I have the house to myself every day. I do have the company of the dogs--Kenzie and Alex's husky Penny, and, for the time being, their foster pit bull Richie, who is quite possibly the most affectionate dog I've ever met. I was trying to do work the other day and he would not get off me. They are so cute. Observe:

My internship starts on Monday, so that will help get me out of the house, too. I was pleased to discover that Kenzie and Alex's house is actually in the same neighborhood as the office, so it's only a 10-minute drive, and I don't have to get on the highway. In fact, it's only a 15-minute bike ride, and Kenzie has a bike and a helmet she's not using, and I could take residential streets the entire way there. I might do that. Get some exercise.

Goals for this evening: write, start reading Ulysses. Wish me luck.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Los Angeles, I'm Yours

I've been terrible at blogging lately, and now I'm going to Los Angeles tomorrow! How did that happen? Everything has been so peaceful here in Vegas that the big move snuck up on me. I start my internship at Les Figues a week from today, however, so I must be off. I need time to settle in, adjust to the smog, come to terms with the fact that I'll be living in the city that ruined the Blackhawks' Stanley Cup hopes--all that normal big-move stuff. As you may have guessed, the title for this entry is, once again, a song, this time by The Decemberists. Have a listen.

I'm excited for summer adventures in the big city, but everything has been so idyllic here in Vegas recently that I'm somewhat reluctant to go. Well, the weather has been a little hot for my taste. Other than that, though, I've been having a lovely time. I have been working, of course. I'm currently writing a story that takes place in Beijing, which I've always wanted to do. It's hard to balance the storytelling and the accuracy without making it sound like a tacky travel narrative sometimes, but that's why we edit. It's interesting how my writing process has changed over the years in that regard. I used to be a sentence-level perfectionist, not moving on to the next word until the perfect word had been chosen. The backspace key was my best friend. Needless to say, it took me forever to write anything. That all changed when I started writing flash fiction on the CTA; I had to finish the story before I got off the train and that was that. I forced myself to edit later, and I think my writing improved because of it. I could at least finish stories for once.

At any rate, I have been working, but on a schedule of my own devising. Life has been sweet. Lots of relaxation. I started watching True Detective. I went antiquing/vintage shopping with Joe. I've been exercising regularly and sleeping in.

Actually, LA will probably bring much of the same. My internship is only two days a week, so I can organize the rest of the week however I want. It may be slightly lonelier. Sure, I'll have Kenzie, Alex, and Katie, but they all have full-time jobs, so I imagine I'll have plenty of time to myself. Who knows? Maybe I'll make friends. I think I'm bolder now than I used to be. Moving over a thousand miles away from one's close-knit social circle will do that to a person.

And I know that LA will be distracting as well. I love traveling, learning about new places. I had a great time there when I visited last October, so a big part of me can't wait to take the city by storm. Still, I've grown rather fond of Vegas and my friends here over the past many months. I think I will miss it/them.

So I've got to say goodbye for the summer, Las Vegas. Let me dedicate one of my favorite oldies songs to you--"Sealed with a Kiss" by Brian Hyland. Just replace "September" with "August" and "in a letter" with "via copious social media posting."

(Seriously, if you didn't click the link--do it. You have to see the world's slowest gogo dancers.)