Top of the Pile #26: Reading Like a Writer

Read Like a WriterReading Like a Writer will be my second Creative Writing themed read in a couple of weeks, after finishing Stephen King’s On Writing this weekend. A subject I’ve hardly read anything about altogether, but which I turned to after stumbling upon a bunch of literature podcasts which I now listen to almost on a daily basis at work.

So following another podcast session, I bookmarked King’s On Writing and Francine Prose’s Reading Like a Writer; then a few days later, while on an impromptu used book shopping spree in Soho, I also got a Cambridge Creative Writing companion, so I’ve got my work cut out for me in terms of writing techniques and I’ll-never-ever-be-the-new-J.-K.-Rowling epiphanies for at least a couple of weeks or so.

For now though, Reading Like a Writer begins by advising me to slow down my reading and pay attention. That’ll surely be a challenge, as I’ve always been a fast reader and, especially now, when I’m fighting my way through never ending Infinite Jest and trying to catch up on my 2014 Goodreads reading challenge (still 12 books behind, grrr!) I’m in more of a rush than ever.  I’ll try to calm down a bit and hopefully enjoy it more, so I probably won’t be posting another Top of the Pile entry too soon.

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I finished Hatching Twitter yesterday, in between sessions of laundry and babysitting a dish of potatoes au gratin. It advertised itself as a saga of Twitter’s invention and evolution, but I found it more an account of how a bunch of nerdy guys repeatedly stabbed each other in the back for money.

The geek inside me would have been more interested in reading about the technical side of getting Twitter to its current super-duper-online-monster status, about what went wrong and how they fixed it and how certain ideas and concepts came about, but instead I found myself drawn into these soap-opera-ish scenarios culminating in bursts of “The CEO is dead, long live the CEO!”.

It was an OK and very quick read (2 sittings), but not entirely what I expected really, so maybe 3 stars out of 5?

That’s it for today, back to my podcasts and some startup unrelated coding. Happy reading everyone!

On the Inside

Things are happening.

We’re almost there on closing the deal on a flat we’ve found. Of course, there are legal issues on the vendor’s side. And yes, you’ve guessed it, she refuses/isn’t able to sort them out. So we might not get it in the end. Which is nice. It’s only been eleven exciting months of house hunting, sleepwalking and almost breaking up once or twice.

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My parents are pretty much forcing me into getting married. They’ve told their friends we’re buying a place together, so obviously we need to get hitched now. They’ve looked into Romanian marriage licenses and bridal bouquets, they’ve booked days off and pretty much picked wedding bands, all of it while I was unassumingly trying to live my unexciting little life a continent away, bridal plans as far from my mind as they’ve ever been. And all of a sudden, it looks like they’re actually doing it now. Getting me married or something. I don’t think I’m in the best mood to comment on this, maybe another time.

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It’s my sister’s birthday tomorrow. I spent my morning trying to pick the perfect bouquet of white roses, stressing over every single petal and pointy leaf.

We haven’t spoken in months.

It’s been so bad that I turned thirty this June and she never called. Then I got a Romanian stamped envelope in the mail the next day, and my heart jumped at the sight of what I thought was her writing. She cares, she cares, and I ran up the stairs to the flat, because I didn’t want to read it in the dark, stew smelling corridor. A letter from my sister deserved proper lighting at least. It was a birthday card from V’s sister (or should I say my soon to be sister in law!), and I literally felt something snap inside me, like really, making a noise by which you can tell it can’t be repaired. She didn’t care.

So I ordered these roses today, because it’s her birthday, and I’ve been sending her white roses every year since I moved to London, and that’s something, that’s really something, something you don’t just stop doing just like that, because people don’t write letters when you’d like them to.

Then I was on the phone with my mother and in between “You’d better get your ass over here and do it! We told all our friends!”, I mentioned I’d ordered flowers for my sister and hoped she’d like the surprise.

“What’s she going to do with flowers?” And then, to my sister, who I had no idea was in the car with her: “You don’t want stupid flowers, do you?”

Snap.

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It’s just a regular day, today.

I walk, I sip, I click. It’s getting cold and I seem to remember this as my favourite time in the year. I used to love going back to my sweaters, to scarves and my precious dark green leather jacket with its leather scratched on the left elbow. I used to love going back to school, to friends, to my comfortable rituals. Summer was often exhausting, with its skins on display and races to the edge of the frightening waters. Autumn was a comforting return to things known and loved. In a way, I still feel the same. But in a way, I don’t know. It’s like those tea coloured tissues you get with a cup of latte to go. 100% recycled in bold brown letters on the soft paper, and that’s how I feel. Like I’ve been used and put back together to be used again. What awaits is a future of spilled coffee and lipstick smudges, and a hot, delicious sip in between.

Top of the Pile #21, #22, #24, #25: Hannibal, Gone Girl, On Writing, Hatching Twitter

I’ve been doing quite a bit of binge reading lately, eager to catch up on months and months of book fasting summer. Yes, I’ve been busy, and yes, it hasn’t been the easiest, most reading friendly summer I’ve had so far, but I’ve got no excuse really. And now that London weather’s back to its grumpy, rainy self, and there are less and less opportunities to walk the streets and sip your nights away around pub terrace tables, I’m back to my normal state of affairs, and my cobweb infested book pile.

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I kicked off my back-to-reading-or-bust regime with a taste of psycho-horror, and gobbled up my first Thomas Harris thriller, Hannibal. It might have just been a case of Hannibal-the-series withdrawal gone wrong, as V and I had been binge watching the last season this past June, and it seems I couldn’t let go that easily.

So I finished Hannibal in two sittings, and though I really enjoyed discovering connections with the TV series and tying one or two loose ends, it didn’t blow my mind to be perfectly honest.

V says I should have read The Silence of the Lambs first, the best loved book (and movie?) in the series, but I already had Hannibal (have no idea how I got it, triple YAY for growing old and forgetful) and decided I’d just go with that. It’s served its purpose, apparently, as I’m at least not shaking uncontrollably at the thought of the next Hannibal-the-TV-series season release, but it’s fair to assume that as far as the other books are concerned, I’ll stick to the TV version. Unless you suggest otherwise. Have you read The Silence of the Lambs? Is it super duper scary and super duper worth its £5 price tag? Let me know!

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Next on my reading list was everybody’s darling these days, Gillian Flynn, and her thriller (I sense a pattern here!) novel, Gone Girl. A friend was reading this and recommended it, albeit reluctantly, saying, and I quote, it might just be deep enough for me to not hate. Yes, all my friends make fun of me on a daily basis. Next question?

It took me three or four sittings to finish Gone Girl, with a few days hiatus while we were in Edinburgh for the FRINGE and to celebrate V’s birthday. I absolutely devoured the first half of the book, and although I later discovered, on Goodreads and the likes, that most people found the first half boring and slow, it remains my favourite part. I guess I enjoyed the mystery, and getting acquainted with the characters’ voices. Once I figured out what was going on, and what each player was about, I gradually lost my interest. I don’t know if this is a pattern with me and mystery/thriller books, as I simply I haven’t read that many. Anyway, it was an OK read. I probably won’t be watching the movie and I’m not sure I’ll be picking another one of Flynn’s books just yet (but that may just be because of my pre-existent, sky-scraper tall book piles taking over my living room). Time will tell.

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Last but not least, I finished Stephen King’s On Writing last night, in between episodes of Vikings and chocolate pancakes servings. It’s been lying on my nightstand for a while now, and it’s only taken me this long to finish it because it’s in hardcover format and I’m way too lazy to carry hardcovers around these days. But it was a quick, pleasant read and it’s made me, a reluctant Stephen King reader (I think I’ve only read The Stand and It), to want to pretty much dive into one of his heaviest, scariest tomes. Which I might actually do sooner rather than later (V just got me a paperback copy of Cell).

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In the meantime, I’m still fighting my way through Infinite Jest (halfway through, which means I’ll probably be 40 before I finish it. If I survive!), and I also started Hatching Twitter, which is hardly the kind of literature I normally read, but was recommended by my startup-crazed V, and there’s only so much “Read it! Read it! Read it!” I can take before I finally cave. It’s meant to be “A True Story of Money, Power, Friendship, and Betrayal” (insert eye roll) about the development and growth of Twitter, and will likely, V hopes at least, motivate me/us/mostly me into building and launching some equally table turning online monster business, which may or may not end in betrayal.

That’s it for now, I’ll keep you posted as I make my way through the pile. In the meantime, what’s on your autumn reading list?

Poem to Start the Week #12: He Tells Her

He tells her that the Earth is flat—
He knows the facts, and that is that.
In altercations fierce and long
She tries her best to prove him wrong.
But he has learned to argue well.
He calls her arguments unsound
And often asks her not to yell.
She cannot win. He stands his ground.

The planet goes on being round.

 

Wendy Cope