Friday, December 31, 2010

Epic FAIL!

Somehow I went on a mini book shopping splurge... dazed & confused as to how this happened.  Seriously, I guess I do know how that happened, but it was such a blur!!!  An out of control frenzy!!!  It all started when I went to drop off a donation at Goodwill, and I saw all the other people dropping off things at Goodwill and thought, "maybe, just maybe someone left a copy of Ford County that I need to complete my collection, or perhaps, by chance, there would be The Art of French Cooking, that I have no intention of really truly trying to prepare meals from I just want to check it out and consider such an option... and what could it hurt to check, just real quick???  I did have some time to kill..." 

And there you have it.  That's how I ended up with 8 titles of anything but those 2.  But in my defense, NONE of the 8 are novels (well, one is but it is based on an interpretation of a real life story and I didn't realize that until AFTER I got home so it doesn't count).  They are all titles (except the one) of things I want to learn more about and work on in 2011 so by that definition they were a necessity.

Monday, December 27, 2010

December BookPage

Such a busy month!  Holidays, birthdays, family visits...  I'm still chugging thru "Songs in Ordinary Time" so haven't started the 161 project yet, succumbed to temptation & downloaded a "I want to read this!" to Kindell, my Kindle, but have NOT, I, started reading it yet.  All this to say, I picked up the December issue of "BookPage" and went thru it but am just now getting around to listing out mynew adds to the reading wish list:

The Forest for the Trees
This Year You Write Your Novel
The Secret Miracle: the Novelist's Handbook
Blackpool Mysteries series (Jordan Gray)
Morning Show Murders (Al Roker!)
Midnight Show Murders (Al Roker!)
The Recipe Club (Israel & Garfinke)
The Hollow (Jessica Verday)
The Graveyard Book (Neil Gaiman!)
The Language of Interior Design (Alexa Hampton)
Minimalism & Fashion: Reduction in the Post Modern Era
These Hidden Things (Heather Gudenkauf)
Rescue by Anita Shreve
An Object of Beauty by Steven Martin
A Season of Darkness by Jones & Gobbell
I Still Dream About You by Fannie Flagg
Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter by Tom Franklin
Deck the Halls/Christmas Thief (Mary Higgins Clark & Carol Higgins Clark)
How Did I Get Here? (Tony Hawk)

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Hello, Darlin'!

WHAT do we have here???  Is that a Kindle?  Why, yes, YES it is!  I vowed I'd hold off on such a purchase until I was caught up with my reading (year 2016 was my best calculation...), and yet, here there is one... however can that be???

A gift!  Yes, a gift!  I promise I did NOT buy this myself.  A gift, a gift, a very generous gift for me, for me - I'm so very happy!!!  So happy I wrote a song.  Well, a chant.  A chant to Eddie Murphy's famous "You Ain't Got No Ice Cream":

I got a Kindle, I got a Kindle
I named it "Kindell"
But I can't use it
cuz I am on restriction
from buying any more books
until I read all the ones I already have,
that are on the shelves,
and the floor,
so my poor Kindell,
the Kindle,
will have to wait,
like forever,
but I don't care
cuz I got a Kindle, I got a Kindle,
yay, yay, yay

Monday, December 6, 2010

Well, THAT didn't last long!


Stopped by Books-A-Million for the December copy of "BookPage," and what greets me???  The Last Chance Library Carts!  My arms quickly became full, then I remembered...  the 161 Project pledge.  Oh, BUMMER!  So, I slowly, degrudgedly, put them back... one by one, until I had only 2 in my hand.  I did buy these 2, tho, because I decided (justified) they were not "leisure reading" books.  AND, neither fell into the categories I had established under my recent quest.  So.  WHEW.

As far as the recent quest, here is where things stand:
  • I wrote out every title of the 161 books onto strips of cardstock
  • I folded them in half & dropped them into the book box
  • Realized very quickly that the book box wasn't big enough so went in search of a bigger vessel
  • Found a bigger vessel & transferred the fold strips of paper
  • Half-way thru, realized the bigger vessel wasn't big enough
  • Had a lightbulb moment & unfolded the strips of paper
  • Aha!  They fit perfectly in the book box now
  • Closed said book box & put it on the nightstand - sooo much neater than a pile of books that had been there...

I did make a slight change...  the original plan was to have all 161 titles in the book box, then to draw out a title & make that my next read.  Well, as I was writing, I came across 3 titles that I set aside because I realized I want (need?) to read these titles sooner, rather than later (considering it just may take me 16 years to get thru them all).  So these 3 titles are my REQUIRED next reads:

I seriously want to live debt free so this is a MUST!  First on the "required reading list."

Promised a friend we'd do "The Artist's Way" together, starting in January, so there you go.
Frustrations at work abound!  Feeling kinda down because I haven't accomplished more... Recognizing my own mortality and pondering what legacy I'm leaving behind...  pretty standard stuff here at the end of one year & the beginning of the next, right?  Hope so!  What an epiphany to find this book on my bookshelf!  Remembering my motivation for buying it (the last time I was going thru this doom-&-gloom self-analysis, I'd bet), and not wanting it to get forgotten again, so here it is:  Priority Reading #3. 

Oh, look!  Another book with the same title & ALMOST the same concept.  I don't own this one, but I'm including it anyway because maybe I should???

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

My name is Jae Halam and I'm a book-a-holic.

Seriously, I have a problem...  I collect books.  I can't resist.  I buy more than I can read.  I swear, promise, determine that I'll NOT buy another until I plow thru what I already have but that lasts as long as my next reading craving, which is pretty much a constant craving...  Yes, I actually get a craving to go to the bookstore!  Or to Goodwill where I peruse EVERY title along 3 rows of 4 5-tiered shelves filling up a cart to add to my ever-growing to-read pile (but at a mere $1.50 - $2.00 a pop so it is soooo worth it!).



I had decided my mantra this year would be "not again in 2010" and although I didn't specifically say "no more books," that was technically part of it because "curb frivolous spending" was actually part of it, and unfortunately, in my situation, "buying books" definitely qualifies as "frivolous spending."

~double sigh~

So.  As is true to my annual norm, December is my month of reflection upon the passing year and contemplation of the coming one.  And this day, December 1st, I am contemplating my out-of-control book collection, which has filled up the bookcase...

and spilled over onto the floor...

So I started to organize the masses...

And root out the "already reads"...

And organize the collections...

Then rearranged the bookcase...

But they didn't all fit so I took the leftovers to the other bookcase in the study...

And realized I had quite a mess on my hands.  Especially when it occured to me that this wasn't everything - I have more books upstairs and in boxes in the basement. 

~triple sigh~

But a thought began to form...  a project... a plan...  a plan to read these books, really read them.  Not just "think" about reading them, but actually pick them up, crack their spine, read their words, close them up then  blog about them.

So I started by making a list of all the books lying about that I intend to read (intend being a key word here).  Intend to read.  Someday.  Books on religion, health, finance, business, not just my favorite leisure read genre, the who-dun-it-murder-mystery-suspense-cops-and-robbers-good-vs-evil-legal-thriller...

By the time I finished, with just the 2 rooms noted here (saving the upstairs & the basement for another day - ~quadruple sigh~!), I came up with 161 titles.

Holy Moly Cheese & Baloney!  If I stay consistent with my average of 10 books a year, I'll get thru this pile in 16 years, so in 2027 when I'm 62 freakin' years old. 


I don't like that plan!

But I'm moving forward with it anyway...  To ensure I read a variety, not just my favorite genre (already noted above), I'm going to have each title identified on a card, placed in a box and when it's time to read a new book, I'm going to reach in the box and whatever title comes out is the one that is next on the list.

I'll document my progress under the "161 Project" tab. 

Ugh.  I've got alot of work to do...

Friday, November 5, 2010

Sappy Movie Day...

It started this morning with "Life As A House"...  I did my typical "let's find something to watch while I work," but got involved despite my best attempts to ignore the TV.  Movie was really, really good - I cried entirely too much!  Damnbut Kevin Kline isn't appreciated enough and Kristen Scott Thomas has got to be the most beautiful woman ever.

Had such good intentions for my day - just 3 things with top billing:  put the Halloween decorations away (really away, as in packed up & in the basement, NOT just off their month of October perches), clean my car (ugh-ugh-ugh) and get thru this tremendously large triple stack pile of paperwork!  However, I got sidetracked for 3 hours helping a friend do her own blog (yay!) and before I knew it, it was 4p, the kid was home from school and I'm still in my jammies with my hair unwashed, bare naked face, feeling QUITE grungy and oh-so-glad I have no plans for going out into the world with nothing quite completely checked off the list when another movie comes on... "The Open Road." 

Not quite the tear-jerker as "Life As A House," but I got mushy & melancholy just the same.  Maybe it's just that kind of day?  And now for:  "Sunshine Cleaning."  Been wanting to watch this movie for awhile...  hoping I'll get more laughs than tears out of this one.  So far so good.  Just LMAO when one sister made the other one fall!  Ahahahahaha!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

BookPage: November 2010 Issue

One of my favorite monthly rituals is to swing by Books-A-Million (the ONLY bookstore in my community!) to pick up their latest issue of  BookPage, which I read cover to cover.  And, therefore, my "to-read" list grows...

This month, I'm adding:
  • Green Beauty Recipes by Julie Gabriel (although I'm a little leery about this one - heard enough "green washing" tales to be skeptical until further research is conducted)
  • Green Interior Design by Lori Dennis
  • Outliers: the Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell
  • Next Time You See Me by Katia Lief
  • The Hidden by Bill Pronzini
  • Full Dark, No Stars by Stephen King
  • My Passion for Design by Barbara Streisand
  • Style by Lauren Conrad
  • One Day by David Nicholls
  • The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
  • A Soft Place to Land by Susan Rebecca White
  • The Distant Hours by Kate Morton
  • Moonlight Mile by Dennis LeHane
  • The Templar's Code by CM Palov
  • Eighteen Acres by Nicolle Wallace
  • The Neighbors are Watching by Debra Ginsberg
  • Radiance by Alyson Noel
  • I Still Dream About You by Fannie Flagg
  • Can't Wait to Get to Heaven by Fannie Flagg
  • The Confession by John Grisham
So many books...  so little time...

Sunday, October 24, 2010

The Myth of You & Me by Leah Stewart

And I’m left to wonder, What is this place? This room, this house, this life accountable to no one but myself.  ~ A. Manette Ansay, “Sister” ~

I don't know of Leah Stewart... had not read her previous novel, "Body of a Girl," nor was I aware of this novel, "The Myth of You & Me."  Had I stumbled upon the blurb of it in my quest for what to read next, what to have on the ready bedside table, as Heaven forbid I be without something to read ever!, I might have passed it by...  I don't savor or crave ChickLit, and I must say, if I were Leah Stewart and I just read that someone (whoever this nobody Jae Halam thinks she is) just deemed me an author of ChickLit, I'd be highly offended because "ChickLit" is not a fair categorization of this type of work.  I don't know what it's called - it's something magical, and meaningful and melancholy...  it's literature that has a way of reaching deep inside and finding a home in your heart, a place where lifelong secrets and desires and shames and memories are resting in peace, where certain words from the page jump out and ring a bell and awaken the once silent beast.  Literature that makes you think.  And feel.  Lovely literature.  Absolutely lovely.

And so my introduction to Leah Stewart has taken place and I now feel very connected to her.  I want to know her and study her work and learn from her...  and write like her.

This wonderful tale that has sparked me so is the story of a friendship, and a betrayal, and a hurt (well more than one), and a hiding, and a loss (also more than one), and a search, and a find (oh, yes, definitely more than one), a story that takes you there to here and back to there, and once again to here and then, finally, to now.   


A lyrical time capsule from age 14 to age 29 - no, 30! - of two girls finding each other, saving each other, and holding each other together.  They venture, hand in hand, thru the trials and tribulations of adolescence into the early stages of adulthood, and then, sadly, they each leave one other along the way (altho the story is told from only one's point of view - the one betrayed - and seems to be intended as only one, the betrayed's, leaving the other behind, I choose to see it as both leaving each other).  Eight years later, the betrayer reaches out to the betrayed, and so begins an emotional journey of physical distance that takes the betrayed back in time to "the myth of you & me" thru the many doors of her past that she's left standing open, intentionally ignoring the gaping black depths of memories and relationships shoved into the dusty dark corners within...

However did Leah Stewart do it?  ~sigh...  if only so could I...

“what if you had to choose between being my best friend forever and having the boy of your dreams?”

When I went out I worried that his heart had stopped, as though by my presence alone I kept it going.

I was just grateful for my ordinary life.

All those boxes along the wall, full of childhood discards – an old dollhouse, the Ewok village, a box of stuffed animals loved into ruin.

Had I erased her from the picture, or had she added herself?

We rescued each other, not only from a speeding car and a swimming pool, but from our separateness, each of us at once the savior and the saved.

“…and on this momentous occasion being more aware of the people I’d lost than of the people who were there.”

“I don’t know what I’ve taught you, if not that time is meaningless.”

I’ve always been a good liar because I have the ability to believe that whatever I’m saying is true.

By this time I had come to accept the version of myself reflected back by others, as you cannot help but accept the image you see when you look in the mirror.

Once, I’d been proud of how portable my life had become – far better to accept a transient and unstable life than to pretend permanence when there was no such thing.

It would be so easy to stay up there in the attic and become a ghost.

Once, Oliver told me I was lucky not to have the kind of past embodied in this vast, treasure-filled attic, where for more than a hundred years his family had stored their memories. He said, “You make your own history.”

To belong nowhere is a blessing and a curse, like any kind of freedom.

She embodied the lesson I’d learned from my dealings with my father: show no weakness. The world will use it against you.

She used to say I did a fine job of seeming to care about nothing in order to hide the fact that I cared about everything.

I understood the impulse to disguise, and I understood, too, the longing for one person to know the truth, the weakness of spies and superheroes everywhere.

It’s astonishing what a single life accumulates.

– all the things we think we just might need someday. These things we endow with a certain life – the possibility that we might use them, the memory we attach to them – and then, when we die, they become just things again.

-a plan for my future he’d finished making after all.

He looked in that picture like a man on the verge of an adventurous life.

In spite of myself, I felt the stirrings of a certain familiar excitement – the anticipation of departure.

With moving, I have always been partial to the in-between, the blurred highway outside the window, that suspended time when everything you might become shimmers at the horizon. You might choose anything and make it happen, constrained by nothing but your own imagination, sure that not even gravity can hold you.

When I was a child, my father encouraged me to belong nowhere, to immerse myself in the culture of each new place and then just as easily leave it behind.

I’m a sucker for father-daughter scenes, especially the sentimental ones, alien to my own experience, which make me feel a weird kind of longing mixed with scorn.

“I wasn’t a baby,” she says. “I was a princess.” I was neither. It’s hard to say whether that’s anything worth regretting.

The front of the refrigerator was a riot of snapshots, fanned out in a way that both looked chaotic and suggested much time and thought had been given to their arrangement.

Strange, when I was working so hard to diminish my own sorrow, how much it hurt to have him diminish it.

A day seemed incomplete without a kiss to signal its end.

…and I thought with a quick pang of envy how lucky Sonia was, forgetting for a moment that she was her mother’s sorrow as well as her father’s joy.

I looked cool and detached, which was just how I wanted to look – like a keeper of secrets.

What question was she asking? What question was I asking? What did I hope to discover about Sonia now, rummaging through her things?

We were English Ph.D. students and we spent all our time “unpacking” images and sentences and words, and when we weren’t working, we turned that attention to other people.

A person is not a suitcase, with a finite number of items to unpack. A person is a world. Look at any photograph – of a stranger, your father, your very best friend. Sometimes the mystery is all you can see.

I wondered how long their friendship would last, and I felt sorry for them, because they didn’t know it wouldn’t.

Nothing is stranger than the familiar become (becoming?) unfamiliar.

“You know, “ he said, “a happy ending isn’t really the end. It’s just the place where you choose to stop telling the story.

I wasn’t old enough then to have any real concept of regret, of the endless things that ripple out from every choice.

Maybe I did live an old story, but I couldn’t help but live it as though for the first time.

My life was becoming a story I was telling myself.

It was amazing how quickly a person you’ve liked could go out of your life at someone else’s discretion.

The scene was nearly monochromatic, like a black-and-white photo, the sky light gray with a hint of blue, the clouds etched in darker gray, the water a matte silver-gray rolling with white.

“I was going to say it gave me a thrill of sorrow, or something poetic like that.”

Boston was ghostly through the fog.

All of it. None of it. The highway went everywhere.

Maybe I was afraid of exchanging desire for disillusionment.

The beauties of his body, its hollows, its muscles, skin and bone.

We seemed to fit together, in a way that suggested nothing had ever quite fit before.

My memory of the last two days seemed like a story someone else had told me, as though I hadn’t been living my own life but some shadow version of Sonia’s. Will had always belonged to her, after all – what if our relationship could exist only in her absence, and was just an echo of theirs?

Oliver had accused me of wanting to lead his life - maybe that was what I was doing with Sonia, moving in like a magpie, trying to take back the life that, eight years before, she’d taken from me.

Never in my life had I had such an urge to be cruel.

There was nobody you could trust with your heart.

I thought, with a strange dispassion, that she had made a lie of my existence, when all this time I’d considered her part of what made it real.

I looked for her in the mirror long past the point when it was still possible to see her there.

It wasn’t just what Sonia had done I hadn’t wanted to remember. It was what I had done.

I wanted us both to be alone, but her aloneness was to be desolation, mine was to be freedom.

“You’re not a realist,” she says. “You’re a dreamer who doesn’t believe in the dream.”

“She thinks private praise is better than public criticism.”

“She likes to add mystery to her life. She’s the mistress of the pointless secret.”

‘Isn’t there love that could survive anything?’

I couldn’t stop thinking about the calm with which she’d suggested bringing their relationship to a close, as though that would erase all the time and affection between them, as a house fire destroys your photographs, leaving you to start over without any record of where you’ve been.

But for me a relationship was a story. It was made up of snapshots: … I couldn’t keep the memories discrete, just as when I looked at the old photographs in Oliver’s attic, I’d never been content with the single image each picture contained. I’d always had to imagine what happened next.

Once you know the end of the story, every part of the story contains that end, and is only a way of reaching it.

Why had she told that story to Martin, a story that cast me in the best possible light? Was that the first thing her memory offered her when she thought of me, instead of the sight of my disappearing car? Wasn’t she angry with me at all?

“You never have all of a person, right? So what I have of her is enough.”

“Oliver didn’t suffer fools.”

“A history, like life, is just what one person chooses to remember.”

I was alone, and it was better that way, because this time I had chosen it.

One way or another everybody left, and so life presented two options: You could be the one who got back on the road, or you could be the one left behind.

Home was a place where I happened to be.

Now I was the one feeling that the more places I went, the more of myself I left behind.

I couldn’t imagine that only Sonia had prevented me from being the woman holding his baby on the other side of the door.

But just as Oliver’s things lost their meaning without Oliver, so without the love I used to feel for Owen, he’d lost his meaning for me.

I had the heavy feeling I was fated for departure.

There’s nothing lonelier than being angry at someone who’s indifferent to your anger. It’s like playing catch off a wall by yourself. Everything you feel just bounces back to you.

“I did what you have done. I left her behind.”

There are certain drawbacks to a posthumous surprise.

I did nothing to distinguish myself.

I had the same sense of duty, the desire to complete one stage of life before beginning another…

I was a historian, and when I started writing my books it became even clearer to me that I’d finally begun living the life I was meant for all along.

You could say this story tells you that there is no absolute truth about a life. You merely choose the story you want to tell, and keep telling it.

Please don’t choose loneliness, my dear Cameron, thinking it will protect you from grief. It will spare you nothing.

We’d just been two wanderers clinging to each other, pretending it was possible to stop running, pretending we belonged.

Her mother needed her, and here she was, no matter what the woman had done. Was that weakness on her part, or strength? Her whole life, she’d loved a person w ho gave and withdrew her affection at every turn.

Here was the secret of this house, the thing it took bravery to face – that to go on loving someone means to over and over allow the necessary pain.

…and I understood that if hatred can negate us, love can create us, and when we lose it we don’t know who we are.

I was only myself again, and that seemed a lonely thing to be.

How much had I lost, racing down the highway with everything I owned in my car, trying to arrange my life so that I had nothing to lose?

None of us knows why we love, or why we stop loving, or why everyone we love we lose.

…and I’ll know that this is what you live for – to hear someone say, “Let’s go home,” to hear someone you love call your name.

They’re all there – all the people we were and will be, linked like a chain of paper dolls, girls and women, unfolding and unfolding from the moment one fourteen-year-old said to another that it was a beautiful day.

~end quotes~
My only disappointment would be in the act of betrayal...  I knew, before I knew, that the betrayal would have to do with a boy.  Why else do women turn their backs on their very best friend?  Whatever else would cause so much hurt and anguish to end so strong a connection?  With all the indepth contemplating this story invokes, I was hoping for something not so obvious.  But yet that there in itself sparks a question I'm left to ponder, one I've already asked:  whatever else would be severe enough, dire enough, unforgivable enough to have you leave behind, without a backward glance, the one you love and trust the most, your very best friend.
I'm not done thinking, and pondering, but I'm pretty much stumped as of this moment.  So despite my disappointment that it was such an obvious choice, I must applaud it all the same.  Because that's what makes it real, doesn't it?  That's what makes it something I can live thru, with the narrator, as I read the story.  I can believe that.  I can feel that.  I can relate to that.  I can become enraged and callous and heartbroken by that.  Yes, Bravo!, Leah Stewart, and thank you, too, for this wonderful invitation to travel down my own memory lane, thru my own past heartaches, in search of any meaning thru any relationships I may have left behind.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Don't I Know You? by Karen Shepard

My first thoughts on this novel: 
  • I enjoyed it, but I'm aggravated. 
  • I love mystery & suspense, but I like closure. 
  • I think it's best to let a story unfold, but I also it should tell you what it's about.
  • Some unanswered questions are good.  Too many aren't.
But that's just me.  I've thought about this book since finishing it last night.  It's been on my mind all day.  I'm drawing the conclusion that in this particular "mystery" the unanswered questions are an actual mimic of life, a sad mimic of life.  In life, sometimes we just don't always get our answers.  People leave our lives for whatever reason and we may never know the full story why.  Things happen, out of our control, and we have no idea what spiraled them in that direction.  We may discover secrets and lies and hidden agendas but can uncover no reason...  Destiny, fate, karma, God's will - whatever it is, it is what it is.

We're expected to just walk thru this life, take the hard knocks on the chin, count the blessings as they come and accept them all as is.  Maybe we're provided an answer, but what answer is it?  Is it the truth or is it what the do-er wants us to believe?  Sometimes we're just left to find comfort in drawing our own conclusions.  And then we have to live with the assumptions we make.  In this, we design our own closure.

This story took me down that path.  That path of finding my own way, creating my own assumptions and finding my own closure.  Therein laid a big question with no true answer but quite a few conclusions.  I define it as a surface teller: it skimmed the surface of the situations, providing snippets of information without much depth and just a sprinkling of observations from only one perspective at a time.  I had to put the story together, piece by piece, snippet by snippet - like an investigator, and as much as I enjoy investigation, I can't quite say I enjoyed it.

Here's the deal, Dear Author:  This is your story - TELL it to me!  Don't give it away, of course, but don't make it so cryptic, I can't decipher it.  I don't want to scratch my head and wonder what you'd have me take away from it... Rather, just say it.  Tell me what it is that I need to know.

(but tell me creatively, clearly, and with wit, and clever twists... have the light bulb slowly progress from dim to full illumination! no dark corners with cobwebs left... no, none for me, please)

I'm clutching at this because I believe there is something deeper here.  The metaphor of life, yes, got that.  But something else that if I were more literary I'd understand and marvel at the brillance of it.  Fact is, I am impressed by Karen Shepard's truly interesting concept:  have you ever known a storyteller to tell you a story but NOT tell the story?  Perplexing, fascinating, but infuriating!  Too many, much too many, unanswered questions. 

~ Was there justice in the end? 
~ Was he wrongly accused? 
~ What did he believe? 
~ Who lived where? 
~ Who knew who? 
~ Who was there? 
~ What was written? 
~ Why was it hidden? 
~ Where did everyone go? 
~ What happened after? 

Yes.  Endless questions - as in life, I know.  I do get it.  But is that right?  Do we go thru life, especially after a particularly devastating experience, and live with this huge void of inconclusion, lack of fact, no closure?  So cynical of you, Dear Author Karen Shepard.  So cynical, so cruel and so very sad.

But despite these gripes and grunts, I did love a few things...  Shepard has a wonderful literary voice.  It's the type that speaks to me and guides me to find my own.  More than once, as I was reliving what I'd read in my head, I stopped whatever I was doing at the moment & wrote.  Just wrote.  The entry before this one was part of that.  A voice from deep within me and out of nowhere.  So welcomed, so motivating and so inspiring! 

Another element I truly enjoyed was how her characters intermingled - character infusion, I call it.  They would pop up in another storyline, usually as an unassuming and unimportant observation, but giving us a hint of insight, just a slivering tidbit, for us to file away & maybe draw from later.  The story was so littered with casual observations it was hard to decipher what was critical to the keep and what could be let go.

The entire book is a study of a writing format that I do find fascinating: 3 different characters telling their story from their particular perspective all the while casually, almost unwittingly flittering insight into the main story... 

Extraordinary.  Simply. Extraordinary.

BUT:  it's as if there is a box on the table, and the overall story, the main story (an unsolved murder), is the box.  And lying out to the sides of the box, coming from beneath it are these 4 glorious, sensuous ribbons, one off of each side.  Three of the ribbons represent the 3 characters telling their particular story at a particular time within the overall story.  The 4th ribbon represents the very last story, the final puzzle piece, if you would - this story is about a time, not a  person, but it involves all 3 characters.  The goal is to take the four ribbons, draw them up over the box top and tie them into a beautiful, magnificent bow.  However, sadly, the bow does not get tied.  The ribbons get wound around one another, and I can see the knot, but the bow - the beautiful, magnificent bow made of 4 interconnected glorious, sensuous looping ribbons - just does not get formed.  Instead, limp & unformed ribbons hanging off the edges of the box from the large and sloppy knot in the center is the best I get. 

~ quotes ~

And the belief that actions had consequences.  And guilt.  Those last two, she said, were connected.

Steven figured that for awhile everything he said was going to hurt.

It always felt good and bad to be let go.

The first thing was the big rock into the pond; everything else was ripples.

"Sometimes fucked up's just the play of the day."

He could feel his heart, but he didn't know if that was because he believed himself or because he didn't.

He didn't want to be responsible for making people care again, or still.

"And things will be hard, and then things'll get easier."

She wandered the apartment, a balloon tring to find its way back to earth.

His body had been imperfect in perfect ways.

asking someone to save you was the same thing as asking for a certain kind of destruction.  His genuine sadness about his own behavior did not temper the damage, though it had taken all she had to tell him to leave, to refuse the phone calls, to deny the ache of missing them when they stopped.

She trusted people until they gave her reason not to.

and she'd felt a little sillly and told herself, as she often did, to remember that there were usually logical explanations for all those illogical feelings that wouldn't quite be placed.

"You make it thru the day without anyone finding out you are a fraud."

What had Matthew ever wanted?  Everything.  Nothing.  And all that lay between.

It was the only extravagance they allowed themselves, and Lily stood there thinking of it as pathetic.

"I love him; he love me; we love you.  It why we love you,"

Who thought of these machines? she often wondered.  Who decided what we needed and how to give it to us?

The best lies were the ones closest to the truth.

How did people spend their lives as liars?  How did they keep track of it all?

Reminded her how difficult it was to know someone with anything like real confidence, how much of a blessing it was to receive even a glimpse behind the curtains of someone you loved.

She worked her hands under his shirt and placed her fingertips in the small of his back, where they had discovered, years ago, a spot built just for them.

She was not herself.  She was some version of herself that knowing these two men had brought to the surface.  Maybe that meant she was more herself.

She wanted to be in control, to have a say in how at leasat one thing in her life would resolve itself.

And perhaps she would teach him what he had taught her: that the least likely people are capable of the most unexpected things.

Fear at doing or saying the thing that would end upmaking all the difference.

A strategy she used with the preschoolers came to her.  Don't demand.  Ask.  Let them think it's you who needs the help, they who hold the solutions.

Just tell the truth, her father used to say to her.

If he couldn't give her what she needed, she could leave him, and do so without being destroyed.

Watching was a way to learn.

That's when she wept, because her mind shut down at the understanding that dying meant leaving her son.

Now the old friends had time to sit at Muriel's kitchen table, smoke cigarettes over cups of coffee slowly growing cold.

He was Jewish; people thought he was wise.

Her life with him was only part of other lives he had: the barbershop, the army, the woman with the Russian accent who'd shown up at the memorial service accompanied by a boy a few years younger than Michael.

Both women wee hard workers, their households smoothly running machines.  But Muriel was better at getting what she wanted by way of announcement.  Louise was better by way of endurance.

Maybe he hadn't kept secrets from her.  Maybe she'd done that to herself.

She'd always known that where she failed, God would sort it out.

It was amazing what a person could come up against in herself and still keep going.

Everywhere she went, she was wrong.  Why couldn't life be easier?

If they just had the chance to go back, she could do things differently; he could do things differently.  Each of them could have the life they should've.

It had been strange to be in someone's apartment without the someone.

It was because she was dying that what she did mattered so much.

Who was happy with what God dished out for them?

Whatever she had or hadn't done had been for him.  She wouldn't have known how to live any other way.

He looked like he'd been there his whole life.

This was what heaven would be like - a view of everyone she'd ever known, milling around on the block.

They'd both been gone for years, but in another way they'd both been there all this time, waiting for her to come out and play.

"You're where you need to be," Muriel said.

He shrugged and she recognized her own gesture.  What had she given him?  What would she leave him with?

"Telling the truth is hard," she said.  It was the truth.

She'd know who she wanted to talk to and what she wanted to say.  And he wouldn't be there.

There were still hours ahead of them before sleep.

"I'm a fuckup," she'd say over and over, doing nothing to change her ways.

What did she know about men and women and the behavior between them?

They were all there: people he knew and people he didn't.

It could happen that easily.  Everything wasn't already the way it was going to be.  Things could happen.  Things could change.  It was a good thing to know.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Dragonfly (2002)

Eight years ago when this movie came out, I added it to my "to see" list.  I never got around to it - not in the theaters, not soon after when it was on cable.  But it has always stayed on the "to see" list, even tho the reviews were brutal.  I don't know - something about it just stuck with me.

I've said it before & I'll say it again:  Thank Heaven for TiVo!  I happened to have caught that it was playing sometime this afternoon while I'd be at work so I set the TiVo to record and snuggled in this evening to finally see this movie!

I have to say, I enjoyed it.  I found it wonderfully moving and meaningful.  Costner's Dr. Joe Darrow is lost without his wife and lost without faith...  did he lose faith when he lost his wife or, as a scientist, did he lack faith to begin with?  What is so amazing to me about this movie is Joe's journey to faith, through faith.  My favorite line is this one:  "it's belief that gets us there."

Wednesday, September 22, 2010


Ok, I'm stumbling thru this book...  I'm about half way and pulling my hair out.  Got so aggravated 2 nights ago I slapped it down & can't bear to pick it back up yet.  Ggggrrrr!  Here's my problem: too much NOTHING.  Too many frustrating circumstances, no answers, no leads, not exactly believable situations...  Such as, two hours with the investigator while Grandpops gathers chow but no dialog about the case?????????????????????????  Ex-girlfriend pops in and interrupts the evening, implies she's still the girlfriend in front of the other girl, who leaves abruptly, and NOBODY - not Dude or Grandpops - speaks up OR stops the other girl from leaving????????????????  How's this?  The cops show up & accuse Dude of killing his friend, ask where he's been all evening and instead of saying, "here, with my grandfather & a date,"in other words, a provable alibi, he gets beat up by the cops & thrown in jail AND STILL NOBODY SAYS ANYTHING?  We just go to the next day & wake up on a cot behind bars?  WTHeck???

James Patterson is an AMAZING person - have you ever read up on him?  Aside from being a world renown author, he is just a fascinating, sincere, business oriented, this-is-my-career-and-I'm-going-to-do-it-right guy.  Cranks out books by the dozens, covers a variety of genres, including children's, and has the heart of a teacher. Just truly remarkable!  So, I hate to criticize (because who am I to talk???  What the heck have I ever done???), but I am freakin' pulling my hair out here.  I did not enjoy "Sundays at Tiffany's" or "Sam's Letters to Jennifer," altho I did, did, did like "Kiss the Girls" (that is the book that started this loggin' bloggin'), so I'm thinking I don't like him as a romance writer and decide to return to the blood & guts suspense stuff.  But I gotta say, I'm, like, miffed right now!  WTHeck???

One of my reading goals is to read the Women's Murder Club series in sequence - gosh, I hope I don't get this frustrated when I start that!

And just to clarify, this is just a vent.  I'm not giving up on "The Beach House" yet.  This guy Patterson is no slouch and isn't acclaimed for nothing, so there has GOT to be something here... something that I'll get to (soon, please) and will cheer LOUDLY over in the end.  Stay tuned...

Sunday, September 12, 2010


The key to writing is to write.  Just write.  Everyday and anything.  A thought, a poem, a line, a lyric, a paragraph, a story.

Just write.  Everyday and anything.

Like everything else in life, we must hone our craft and how do you do that without practice?

Take out the thought of being "a writer" means your published and absorb the practice that being "a writer" means you write.  Plain and simple.  We identify ourselves, often and too much, by what we do.  So, when someone asks, "are you a writer?" we duck our heads and say, "no" because the next logical, almost accusing question will be, "what have you written?" and unless we've been published, we'd rather not take ourselves down this road.

I read about this very thing recently, in another writer's blog.  How a reaction and answer changes based on the question. By changing "are you a writer?" to "do you write?", she had a totally different conversation develop.  Interesting...

Blogging as a writer originally had a purpose: to get all these poetic thoughts out of my head...  Hence the title:  Jae Halam Writes.  However, I haven't gotten there yet.  Instead, I'm having much more fun, and staying much more comfortable, blogging about what I've read (and recognizing this, I added the "... and Reads..." to my blog title).  Which brings me another thought:  I wasn't comfortable sharing this with anyone.  Who am I to write about someone else's writing?  I've hidden this blog from those I know, only recently sharing - and when I did share, I didn't identify myself as the author.  Instead I just suggested it for my friend to read, maybe to get her started on her own literary blog.  BUT once I did that, once I shared, I became more comfortable sharing again.  And again.  And putting this blog out there...  so maybe, if I'd just write, and not worry about what others think-feel-assume-say, I'd step out of that comfort zone I've created as a hidden writer... I'm really just thinking out loud right now - getting these random-writing-thoughts running rampant around my head from thought to finger, from paper to pen...      

Today, while pondering all of this, something about being a writer ran thru my head, about writing and character development, about exposing yourself as a writer and incorporating, or disregarding, the reaction of others:  as a beginning writer we're told to write about what we know.  This is easy.  And safe.  But, I think, my fear of exposure comes from writing about what I don't really know.  About the being exposed as a fraud... believing I must immerse myself into the subject wholly so not to be called out for speaking out turn...  And this idea, this disclaimer, this thought came to me:  the older you get, the more exposure (using it in a different context here) you have - not just to your life but to the lives of others, and not just what you see but what they share of them that you didn't see - the more imagination you develop.  So, to get started, just write; to become a practiced writer, write what you know; to become an interesting writer, step out of your comfort zone and write what you don't know.

Monday, September 6, 2010

The Life of David Gale

"There's a point, when your mind outlives its obsessions, when your habits survive your dreams, when your losses... You wonder, maybe death is a gift. All I know I'll be be better off. What I don't know is why."

Saturday night and I've got time on my hands... and a project or two that needs my attention.  As true to my routine, I head into my atelier, sigh at the mess - the enormity of the mess - and plop down on the couch to find something mindless on TV to keep me company while I work.

What I find, and am tempted to NOT watch, but rather record & watch later, is 2003's "The Life of David Gale." 

This is one of those movies I remember from its release (how can it be 7 years old already???), but never got around to seeing in the theaters, never heard a word about and promptly dismissed it from my mind until this moment.  I read the description: (something to the effect of) "a journalist interviews a death row inmate and rushes to prove his innocence before his execution."

Hmmm, I ponder...  it does sound interesting.  Kevin Spacey (love him), Kate Winslet (love her), Laura Linney (a definite fav...) - great actors all...  but still.  It sounds like a "thinker" and a "close watcher," neither of which I have time for tonight.  I have work to do!  I should just see what's on HGTV, or Lifetime, or Bravo, and save this for another day when I do have time to sit & watch... really watch... and think... and ponder...

But, even as I'm thinking this - pondering this - I connect to the channel and immediately become engrossed as I see a woman running thru a street trying desperately to flag down a driver to give her a ride...  WTH?

And so begins my journey into "The Life of David Gale."

The tagline is:  The crime is clear.  The truth is not.

Well, in my not so humble opinion, a lot more than the truth is unclear in this movie...  I can't even begin to explain how disappointed I was. And frustrated.  And aggravated.  You know, I actually liked it - until the point when the crime is explained.  Then I absolutely hated it when the final detail fell into place - at the very last minute of the movie.  I was almost angry.  And insulted.  Really?  Really????  Seriously?  Are you kidding me????

Then:  Whatever, with a shake of my head.  What-freakin'-ever.


Of course, I've thought about it quite a bit since Saturday night.  Even discussed it with a friend over lunch the next day.  And, while searching for an image to use in this blog post, I actually found a working copy of the script - and read it!  In one sitting and in it's entirety in hopes that I'd appreciate it more (which I do, although I can't say I really like it any better; here's the link:  So all this obsession, if you will, makes me further ponder (more with the pondering?): isn't that what a good story makes you do?  Continue to think about it?  Haven't I mentioned more than once in this blog how I love a story that stays with me, lingers on my mind, causes me to play out the fantasy of the rest of their lives - the what happens next - in my mind? 

Well, not this time.  This time the story continuation stops cold and makes me "tsk!" in disgusted irritation.  And I'm realizing there is a difference between a story that lingers creatively in your heart and mind and a story that plagues you with frustrating, unanswered questions... a story with an ending you just cannot relate to, no matter how hard you try.  A story, that when said & done, you define as stupid.

Oh, that's it!  At the end of the movie I decided what they did was stupid.  Yep, they (the characters) were stupid.  Illogical.  Fanatical.  And just plain dumb-asses.


Here's my thought:  the story is definitely interesting and the concept very creative.  I just think it didn't work.  I think, sometimes, in our zealousness to come up with a new idea, something that hasn't been done & overdone time & again, we writers miss our mark.  We become overly creative and therefore overly complicated.  To me, a better story - any art really - should explain itself, definitely not need to be explained.  But having said that, now that I know the whole story and the characters' intent (thanks to my continued ponderances AND the reading of the script), I really don't know that it could have been told, or ended, any other way.


So, I continue to ponder here...  since the story played out as it should, regardless of my disbelief in the calculated complexity of it, is it actually successful?  And, hmmmm, am I doing exactly what the storyteller wanted?  Does my continued ponderance (is that a real word?) of this story deem it a success in his terms?  Perhaps, it does.  Perhaps he's sitting somewhere having a chuckle because I'm giving him exactly what he wanted all along.  Someone to think about this so much it is not forgotten...

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Joy Fielding's WHISPERS and LIES

O. M. G. ! ! !

This book was recommended by a friend and truly knocked me thru a loop.  It was slow going for me thru the majority of the story, I do have to admit.  The narrator's paranoia without substantial foundation was really starting to grate on my nerves!  I kept waiting for the pivotal moment when the suspicions - finally! - all came together, for the a-ha! moment, the bone chilling shiver that runs down my spine...

Well, I got it alright.  There at the end...  Those last few chapters had me riveted in place, eyes rapidly scanning the words, my hands clenched so tight to the book I thought I'd break it's spine with my light bulb dimly brightening until the room was completely luminated!!!  I turned the pages hurriedly, yet cautiously lest I miss a single word, holding my breath while shaking my head and saying, "no, no, no, nnnnoooo...."

O. M. G.

Clever, clever book.  Had me hook, line & sinker... I lied awake for hours after I finished just thinking about it.  And I'm seriously considering, before I return it, of re-reading it since I have a new perspective - oh, just got a shiver!  Yes, it's one of "those" kinds of books.  The kind that stays in your thoughts, where you feel for the characters, bond with them beyond the page.  Oh my!  You know, I really should NOT be surprised!  It reminded me, more than once as I was reading, of Chris Bohjalian's "The Double Bind."  If you haven't read that, you should.  AFTER you've read "Whispers & Lies," tho.  Ooooh, too good NOT to share!

~ quotes ~

No, I was the one who'd rushed eagerly inside, throwing caution and good sense to the wind.  That was one of the more interesting things about Alison, I decided, as a low buzz settled behind my ears.  She only seemed to be confiding in you.  What she was really doing was getting you to confide in her.

Besides, something insidious happens to women in our society when they turn forty, especially if they're not married.  We get lost in a heavy, free-floating haze.  It becomes difficult to see us.  People know we're there; it's just that we've become a little fuzzy, so blurred around the edges we've begun blending into the surrounding scenery.  It's not that we're invisible exactly - people actually step around us to avoid confronting us - but the truth is we are no longer seen.  And if you aren't seen, you aren't heard.
That's what happens to women over forty.
We lose our voice.
Maybe that's why we seem so angry.  Maybe it's not hormones after all.  Maybe we just want someone to pay attention.

What is it they say about second marriages?  That they're a triumph of hope over experience.

I was thinking it doesn't matter how old we are, fourteen or forty, we're ageless when it comes to love.

Later, of course, when age rounded those stubborn shoulders and infirmity softened her more abrasive edges, she became gradually less formidable, less self-righteous. less prone to poisonous outbursts.  Or maybe she just became less.

In becoming less, she became more, as the architect Mies van der Rohe might have said - more tolerant, more grateful, more vulnerable.

I sat back in my chair, stared at the window, saw the ghosts of my past etched in the dark mirror of glass.

After eighty-seven years, it would be as if she'd never existed.

The instinct for survival, the will to live, is an amazing thing.

How apropos that the final sentence of the book is the most fitting, the best summation:  "Good word."

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Reading Like a Writer

Before I begin this very long trek into the depths of my thesis (ok, I'm slightly exaggerating), just wanted to show how MANY pages are turned down... 

I'm thinking I'll need to tackle this chapter by chapter...

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Undone by Karin Slaughter

I discovered Karin Slaughter by accident a few years ago.  I was off on a weekend getaway & in need of something to read (I'm a major reader when traveling).  I picked up the book "Faithless" for 2 reasons:  1) it was my favorite genre, suspense-murder-thriller fiction, and 2) it had a Georgia connection.

I was thrown into a world of intrigue!!!

I finished the book, cover to cover, on my trip and immediately sensed there was more I needed to know.  As soon as we were home & I had access to a computer, I did an internet search that confirmed my suspicions:  Sara Linton, Jeffrey Tolliver and Grant County, Georgia were serial fiction and I was several books behind!  The following week I was out on my lunch break scouoring the bookstore for more Karin Slaughter Grant County books and lucked out @ Barnes & Noble.  They not only had the ones I needed, but they had autographed copies!  WooHoo!!!

That was only a few years ago - maybe 2008? - and I have read her religiously ever since (but with a quirk - I should attempt to explain this at some time in depth but until then here's a quick briefing:  I'm a bit of an odd duck in that I must read a series in the format of the original text I read... soooo!  If I first read a series in paperback, I must collect/read all in paperback.  Same with a hardback - if I started with a hardback, I must collect/read the hardback.  Really becomes an issue when you really, really like an author and have to WAIT for their book to be released in paperback!  Of course, I read Slaughter in paperback!  So, I'm behind in my reading, OK?).  So, back on task here, I've read her books in order ever since.  And not just her Grant County series - she's started another equally intriguing series known as "Will Trent," after the main character.  Love him!  But I digress...

So, I'm a Karin Slaughter reader and quickly - very quickly - realized she's somewhat of a different thriller writer than I typically favor.  She's...  well, she's... how do I put this delicately?  Hmmm, I can't so I'll just say it: she's gruesome.

The crimes in her stories are HORRIFIC.  And graphic.  Dennis LeHane is depressing.  John Sandford is intense.  Karin Slaughter is gruesome.  I wonder, what does it say about a person with such an imagination???  What does it say about me that I can't seem to stop reading her???  Oh, my!

The last book of hers I read, Beyond Reach, really threw me thru a loop and I was depressed for days.  She killed off a beloved character so I was sad.  My favorite character actually.  So, I decide that was IT!  I was NOT reading her anymore!!!  What purpose would there be now?  And yet, here I am, having just finished "Undone" and miffed because I realized I missed a book during my hiatus!  And yes, it has been all I can do NOT to stop at the bookstore everyday this past week to pick up my copy.  Oh, it's driving me crazy!

And so, back to "Undone."  It was true Karin Slaughter style: baffling characters, infuriating personalities, frustrating circumstances...  and that's the people, not the crime.  The crime was also typical Slaughter:  shocking, mind boggling, confusing, questionable, unexplainable...  Frankly, I'm a little disappointed in the story this time.  Harrumph.  This time I feel like Karin overly tried to explain the circumstances leading up to the crimes.  Where she typically lets the story unfold and we, the reader, make discoveries along the way, she kinda sorta laid it all out for us in the end, like a Jessica Fletcher mystery where someone dialogs it all out instead of the action speaking for itself.  And you know what else?  She left us hanging with a point or two (what about the anorexia?  what about the website?  am I the only one that connected "Anna" with "pro Anna"?  Surely not!).  And another thing, Ms. Slaughter - did you do your homework?  If so, please explain to me how a 17yr old runaway puts herself thru college to become a successful interior designer for one of the top firms in the city?  If the premise is she didn't go to college, well, then I'm not buying it.  A top firm isn't going to waste their time with someone who isn't accredited no matter how good they are...  And just one last point: I thought the #11 reference was rather weak.  Make that extremely weak.

But otherwise I loved it.  Truly.  And I am impressed with Slaughter's ability to psychoanalyze people, and human nature, and personality tendencies.  She's an excellent study in character building.  I love how she teaches me about the main characters without writing a dosier.  Oh to be an insightful writer like that!

Of course, as I always do, I stumbled upon some profound thoughts that resonated within me, that I wanted to capture and keep long after the book closes & finds its spot on the shelf next to the other Slaughters in my growing collection.  Without further adieu, Ladies & Gentlemen, presenting Karin Slaughter's "Undone":

His life, it seemed, was all about making himself do things he did not want to do.

Don't make the same mistakes I've made.  Don't get trapped in a job you despise.  Don't compromise your beliefs to put food on the table.

Wasn't that the whole point of youth, to be self-centered?

"You earn respect by giving it to others."

Will had always been a firm believer that coincidences were generally clues.

Will always assumed that when people insisted they weren't lying about a particular thing, that meant they were lying about something else.

"I mean, if you're the good kid in the family, making good grades, staying out of trouble, et cetera, and your sister's always screwing up and getting all the attention, you start to feel left out, like no matter how good you are, it doesn't matter because all your parents can focus on is your crappy sibling."

"My mother always told me there's a fine line between never and always."

"The best way to see if you've missed something is to retrace your steps."

She knew what was behind her, just like she always knew what was ahead.

I'll leave on that note because it's the perfect note.  How wonderful to always know what is ahead.

Monday, July 12, 2010


I finished it!  I finished it!  I finished - finally - "Reading Like a Writer"!  Yay, me.

After almost FIVE, yes 5!, months, I have finished this textbook.  It was not easy...  I gave up "leisure reading" for Lent and I have to say it is the only sacrifice I honored - shame on me.  Being a fast reader, typically, I just expected this to be another book to me.  But it was not...  it was a laborous lesson in discipline and thankfully it became a labor of love.

I'm not ready to summarize it yet - lots of data to download, lots of notes to review and scribble-scrabble to decipher.  I know as painstakingly as I prodded thru it, I missed so much because I either got frustrated, was interrupted, let my mind wander or pretty much just didn't "get it."  Lots of intellectual critiquing by the author zoomed over my head - even after she explained herself I sat there thinking, "WHAT?"  ~sigh~  A literary scholar I am so not.

So more to come at a later date, but for now, I just wanted to CELEBRATE this AMAZING accomplishment!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

To Kill a Mockingbird

A keeper of a story, be it on paper or screen, because it comes from the heart and it grips the soul.

To me the best type of story is the one that never leaves you.  The one that lingers long after the last page has been turned and the cover closed.  The one whose story continues in your mind and you wonder wherever did the characters go from there...  it haunts you and invades you and becomes you.  And again and again, you return to it, in your mind and in your heart, it's magic ever present, it's lessons ever learned and long remembered.  That is the type of story I want to write, that is the type of writer I want to be: one who reaches and touches and lingers long, long, long beyond the very last word: a story like "To Kill a Mockingbird," and a writer like Harper Lee.

There are so many lessons to be learned amongst these pages - so much so, I'm amazed by the innocent voice of this story.  Amazed ever still that the author never published again.  Such honesty and purity mixed together.  So thought provoking and entertaining and haunting...  Such a sadness I feel, and yet such a joy, too.  I have a surge of emotions running thru me but what most comes to mind are two of my favorite words ever:  bittersweet and melancholy.  I'm moody over the sadness of truth within it's pages.  I'm melancholy for the love between parent and child.  I long for the simplistic way of life in 1935, yet I rage over the injusticed way of life of 1935.  I'm bittersweet for the talent rampant thru the pages, wondering how Harper Lee pulled that off, how she succeeded in bringing that all together, and contemplating how will I ever, ever be able to do the same?  And if I can't should I even bother?  "Masterpiece" is not a strong enough word for me to capture exactly what I'm feeling and thinking about this phenomenal story - and I can't express it so I might as well stop trying.  It took me three days to pull my thoughts together from this book.  I had to re-read it once, then I read it again as I pushed thru this assignment.  And still my heart swells, as do my eyes, as I envision and relive every step of the way.  Every single step.

Despite being absorbed in the story itself, and oh-so-intent to "get it" (but did I really?  Soooo thinking of getting the Cliff Notes and doing a private study... hmmm... oh, but I digress!) - so, despite being absorbed in the story itself, and oh-so-intent to "get it," I captured some poignant points that relate to our world today - points about equality, and talent, and government programs, and morals, and values and human nature.  Amazing stuff!  And again, back to an earlier point of mine:  how'd she do it?  How'd Harper Lee know all that stuff, much less express it within the folds of an intricate story, woven so well you don't even realize you're getting the lesson...  Amazing, amazing, amazing!  I have a new hero today and her name is Harper Lee.   

To Kill a Mockingbird:
... that there were other ways of making people into ghosts.

Miss Caroline seemed unaware that the ragged, denim-shirted and floursacked first grade, most of whom had chopped cotton and fed hogs from the time they were able to walk, were immune to imaginitive literature.

Miss Caroline told me to tell my father to not teach me any more, it would interfere with my reading.

"It's best to begin reading with a fresh mind."

Until I feared I would lose it, I never loved to read.  One does not love breathing.

"Are we poor, Atticus?"  Atticus nodded.  "We are indeed."

"...that is a sad house."

"Atticus Fince is the same in his house as he is on the public streets."

Furthermore, had it never occurred to us that the civil way to communicate with another being was by the front door instead of the side window?

The second grade was grim, but Jem assured me that the older I got the better school would be, that he started off the same way, and it was not until one reached sixth grade that one learned anything of value.

Atticus told me to delete the adjectives and I'd have the facts.

There are no clearly defined seasons in South Alabama; summer drifts into autumn, and autumn is sometimes never followed by winter, but turns into day-old spring that melts into summer again.

...Jem and I  were trotting in our orbit one mild October afternoon...

"It's bad children like you makes the seasons change."

"... but from now on I'll never worry about what'll become of you, son, you'll always have an idea."

" just hold your head high and keep those fists down."

"Try fighting with your head for a change... it's a good one, even if it does resist learning."

"Simply because we were licked a hundred years before we started is no reason for us not to try to win," Atticus said.

"This time we aren't fighting the Yankees, we're fighting our friends.  But remember this, no matter how bitter things get, they're still our friends and this is still our home."

It was the first time I ever walked away from a fight.

When stalking one's prey, it is best to take one's time.  Say nothing, and  as sure as eggs he will become curious and emerge.

"When a child asks you something, answer him, for goodness' sake."

"No, the answer is she knows I know she tries.  That's what makes the difference."

Our father didn't do anything.  He worked in an office, not in a drugstore.  Atticus did not drive a dump-truck for the county, he was not the sheriff, he did not farm, work in a garage, or do anything that could possibly arouse the admiration of anyone.

"Shoot all the bluejays you want, if you can hit 'em, but remember it's a sin to kill a mockingbird."

"You're lucky, you know.  You and Jem have the benefit of your father's age.  If your father was thirty you'd find life quite different."

Nothing is more deadly than a deserted, waiting street.

"People in their right minds never take pride in their talents," said Miss Maudie.

"Atticus is a gentleman, just like me!"  (Jem Finch)

"'s never an insult to be called what somebody thinks is a bad name.  It just shows you how poor that person is, it doesn't hurt you."

"She said she was going to leave this world beholden to nothing and nobody."

"I wanted you to see something about her - I wanted you to see what real courage is, instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand.  It's when you know you're licked before you begin but you begin anyway and you see it through no matter what.  You rarely win, but sometimes you do."

...but one must lie under certain circumstances and at all times when one can't do anything about them.

When Aunt Alexandra went to school, self-doubt could not be found in any textbook, so she knew not its meaning.  She was never bored, and given the slightest chance she would exercise her royal prerogative: she would arrange, advise, caution and warn.

Somewhere I had received the impression that Fine Folks were people who did the best they could with the sense they had...

"Mr. Cunningham's basically a good man," he said, "he just has his blind spots along with the rest of us."

"A mob's always made up of people, no matter what."

"Atticus Finch is a deep reader, a mighty deep reader."

Our nightmare had gone with daylight, everything would come out all right.

"People generally see what they look for, and hear what they listen for..."

Never, never, never, on cross-examination ask a witness a question you don't already know the answer to, was a tenet I absorbed with my baby-food.  Do it, and you'll often get an answer you don't want, an answer that might wreck your case.

(regarding the phrase "All Men Are Created Equal")  "There is a tendancy in this year of grace, 1935, for certain people to use this phase out of context, to satisfy all conditions.  The most ridiculous example I can think of is that the people who run public education promote the stupid and idle along with the industrious - because all men are created equal, educators will gravely tell you, the children left behind suffer terrible feelings of inferiority.  We know all men are not created equal in the sense some people would have us believe - some people are smarter than others, some people have more opportunity because they're born with it, some men make more money than others, some ladies make better cakes than others - some people are born gifted beyond the normal scope of men."

"Our courts have their faults, as does any human institution, but in this country our courts are the great levelers, and in our courts all men are created equal."

"Gentlemen, a court is no better than each man of you sitting before me on this jury.  A court is only as sound as its jury, and a jury is only as sound as the men who make it up."

A deserted, waiting, empty street, and the courtroom was packed with people. 

A steaming summer night was no different from a winter morning.

I saw something only a lawyer's child could be expected to see, could be expected to watch for, and it was like watching Atticus walk into the street, raise a rifle to his shoulder and pull the trigger, but watching all the time knowing that the gun was empty.   A jury never looks at a defendant it has convicted, and when this jury came in, not one of them looked at Tom Robinson.

"This is their home, sister," said Atticus.  "We've made it thsi way for them, they might as well learn to cope with it."

"I don't know, but they did it.  They've done it before and they did it tonight and they'll do it again and when they do it - seems that only children weep."

"Don't fret, Jem.  Things are never as bad as they seem."

"Yes, sir, a clown," he said.  "There ain't one thing in this world I can do about folks except laugh, so I'm gonna join the circus and laugh my head off."  "You got it backwards, Dill," said Jem.  "Clowns are sad, it's folks that laugh at them."

"We generally get the juries we deserve."

"Serving on a jury forces a man to make up his mind and declare himself about something."

"Atticus said one time the reason Aunty's so hipped on the family is because all we've got's background and not a dime to our names."

After all, if Aunty could be a lady at a time like this, so could I.

" 'Equal rights for all, special privileges for none'," I quoted.

Atticus said Jem is trying hard to forget something, but what he was really doing was storing it away for a while, until enough time passed.  Then he would be able to think about it and sort things out.

Occassionally there was a sudden breeze that hit my bare legs, but it was all that remained of a promised windy night.  This was the stillness before a thunderstorm.  We listened.

One's mind works very slowly at times.

She brought me something to put on, and had I thought about it then, I would have never let her forget it: in her distraction, Aunty brought me my overalls.

"Boys his age bounce."

His age was beginning to show, his one sign of inner turmoil: the strong line of his jaw melted a little, one became aware of telltale creases forming under his ears, one noticed not his jet-black hair but the gray patches growing at his temples.

"... - why, if we followed our feelings all the time we'd be like cats chasin' their tails."

"Mr. Finch, there's just some kind of men you have to shoot before you can say hidy to 'em."

People have the habit of doing everyday things even under the oddest conditions.

"Best way to clear the air is to have it all out in the open."

"If this thing's hushed up it'll be a simple denial to Jem of the way I've tried to raise him.  Sometimes I think I'm a total failure as a parent, but I'm all they've got.  Before Jem looks at anyone else he looks at me, and I've tried to live so I can look squarely back at him... if I connived at something like this, frankly I couldn't meet his eye, and the day I can't do that I'll know I've lost him.  I don't want to lose him and Scout, because they're all I've got."

"I can't live one way in town and another way in my home."

"Let the dead bury the dead this time, Mr. Finch.  Let the dead bury the dead."

"To my way of thinkin', Mr. Finch, taking the one man who's done you and this town a great service an' draggin' him with his shy ways into the limelight - to me, that's a sin.  It's a sin and I'm not about to have it on my head.  If it was any other man it'd be different.  But not this man, Mr. Finch."

"Thank you for my children, Arthur," he said.

"Will you take me home?"

I would lead him through our house, but I would never lead him home.

His fingers found the front doorknob.  He gently released my hand, opened the door, went inside, and shut the door behind him.  I never saw him again.

Neighbors bring food with death and flowers with sickness and little things in between.  Boo was our neighbor.  He gave us two soap dolls, a broken watch and chain, a pair of good luck pennies, and our lives.  But neighbors give in return.  We never put back into the tree what we took out of it: we had given him nothing, and it made me sad.

Atticus was right.  One time he said you never really know a man until you stand in his shoes and walk around in them.  Just standing on the Radley porch was enough.

As I made my way home, I thought Jem and I would get grown but there wasn't much else for us to learn, except possibly algebra.

"Besides nothin's real scary except in books."

"...Atticus, he was real nice..." 
"Most people are, Scout, when you finally see them."

And, probably my most favorite line of the whole book isn't within the story's pages, but lies upon the prelude page:  Lawyers, I suppose, were children once. ~Charles Lamb~