Saturday, January 2, 2010

Molding My Life

Anais Nin ~~ I made no resolutions for the New Year. The habit of making plans, of criticizing, sanctioning and molding my life, is too much of a daily event for me.

Amen, sister!

For New Year’s we sipped champagne, scarfed a little chocolate, and played Scrabble Slam.

Today, the laundry waits. The Christmas ornaments beg to be wrapped up and tucked away for another year. Oh, and I better clean out the fridge.

All Rights Reserved. © 2009 by Elizabeth Bradley.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Flag Flying

Three examples pictured: Good old stars and stripes, Soviet flag, and (comes in many guises), the ever-popular FREAK FLAG.

I just finished reading a long novel. I’m not going to mention the author, or the name the book, because I don’t want to get involved in critiquing.

Here’s the thing; the writing was so good,
really good. But, and this is a big but, the author saw fit to politicize and lecture, as the book progressed the politicizing intensified to such a degree I found myself growing weary, very weary. I longed to connect to the protagonist emotionally, but never did. In fact, I’ll go so far as to say the communist party was the main character.

Injecting political affairs into a work of fiction is a tricky business. I was taught never to openly lecture the reader. If an author ventures into this territory, they ought to tread lightly. Most of us don’t choose fiction to be harangued into holding a particular opinion or view. If we’re looking for information and opinion we buy nonfiction.

There exist oodles of great novels involving heavy subject matter, to be sure. Charles Dickens had a way of showcasing the inequities between the classes in not-so-Merry-old-England. Ernest Hemingway wrote about the brutality of war in For Whom the Bell Tolls. James Jones set us in Pearl Harbor during WWII in From Here to Eternity. Margaret Mitchell tackled the Civil War with her epic Gone With the Wind. What each of these authors managed to do with great skill was to pen interesting stories with full-blown characters, constructing authentic characters, believable narrative, and a lively plot to keep readers engaged.

Too much lecturing bogs the reader down. The heavy-handed author’s agenda, (especially if the reader does not share their particular world view), may alienate, as opposed to absorb. I don’t know about you, but I am not interested in having my novel tossed aside because I stepped on the reader’s head too hard.

Currently I am grappling with these issues as I work on my own historical piece. No easy feat, this delicate balancing act! I’m pleased that I chose to read the above-mentioned novel. The author did so much right, but in the end, I put the book down feeling cheated. And I am extremely motivated, not to go down that same road. Oh sure, there are many positive reviews of her book posted on Amazon. Some people love being lectured to, especially if they agree with the subject matter. I for one, do not. So I do what most authors do, I write what I enjoy reading.

Do you grapple with these issues? Do you think I’m making too big a deal about this subject? Can you name a novel that put you off in such a manner? Or, better yet, can you name a novel that waved a particular flag in such a manner as to inspire and influence you in a meaningful way?

I will choose the runaway bestseller, The Help, to illustrate my point. Kathryn Stockett writes about race relations during the civil rights era, but I never once felt as if I were being preached at. The Help is one of the best books I’ve ever read. If you haven’t read it, please do. You won’t be sorry.

All Rights Reserved. © 2009 by Elizabeth Bradley.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Trees and Tulips and Vines and Noodles

Pictured above: The Haunted Christmas Tree, The Vines, Tulips My Brother Bought Me, Christmas Dinner, Singapore Street Noodles.

Hey, guess what? I missed you guys terribly!

We had a great Christmas. We all made a deal to only buy the kiddies presents. So, the holiday was about what it’s supposed to be about. Perfect.

In answer to several inquiries, yes, the picture above is of the little tree I decorated this year. Usually I decorate a GIANT white one. I prefer white trees because I pile on so many ornaments, and they tend to stand out so much better against the white. It takes days and days for me to decorate the big tree, so I decided not to go there this year.

But, turned out this little green tree was haunted, (okay, some might prefer the word defective.) The lights kept acting up, turning on, turning off. At one point, (I think it was the day after Christmas), my daughter cried, “Look, the green lights on the tree are turning bright white!” Heads turned, and we all witnessed the intensity of the lights increase to such a degree I encouraged my son to unplug the thing before it broke out in flames, (I suppose a fake tree could catch fire if it got hot enough???) And so, it remains unplugged.

I made the easiest Christmas dinner ever. I slow-cooked a roast beef, added roasted garlic mashed potatoes with a Stilton-laced gravy, and green beans almandine, plus a salad. Talk about delicious. We had a lovely meal.

I enjoy the time between Christmas and New Year. The pressure is off, a person is able to kick back and savor the remainder of the holiday. The best part, we still have leftover Chocolate Torte and homemade New York Cheesecake. I baked up a gluten-free cheesecake with a hazelnut crust, and nobody but nobody had any idea it was gluten-free, it was that good, if I do say so myself. I have eaten two pieces.

The kids have been to the mall and to Target. Not this old girl. I won’t go near a store post-holiday. While they were out shopping yesterday The Husband took me on a Sunday drive through Temecula’s vineyards, (not twenty minutes from our house). We stopped at a lovely winery for a late lunch and got the bad news that they’d closed their restaurant down. Bummer, I guess they take in more money with the wine tasting. I snapped a picture of the withering vines and we hopped in the car and left. We were hungry, damn it, and in search of food. The sun goes down so early this time of year, the sky began to turn pinkish as we followed the roads that snake through wine country. The views of the hills covered in rows of multi-colored vines, (some still heavy with withering deep-purple grapes), were positively breathtaking.

We ended up eating in town, at PF Chang’s again, (I swear I’m not on their payroll), and The Husband decided on a Bloody Maria and I ordered my first Pear Ginger Mojito. We ate Singapore Street Noodles and Lemon Chicken. The two of us were so content by the end of the meal we could have sat there nursing our drinks for quite a while, but felt guilty because so many were gathered and waiting for tables.

I find this remainder of the holiday lends itself to introspection, looking back and looking forward. Can you believe we have almost reached 2010? I have great hopes for the upcoming year. What about you?

All Rights Reserved. © 2009 by Elizabeth Bradley.