Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Epiphanies 2011

Instead of writing a "Best of" post, I've decided to write about a couple of the ideas that came about from my reading & listening this year and, mention some of the books that helped shape these ideas.

☆ Social Injustice: I went back to reading Atiq Rahimi (Earth and Ashes; The Patience Stone and A Thousand Rooms of Dreams and Fear) this year with the idea of exploring "Aggregating Grief" and, instead, came away with a more clear picture of social injustice. At it's most basic, social injustice is the thing that happens under human impetus that causes you to cry out "That's not fair!" There are two possible responses: 1) "That's life" or 2) "Then I need to make it fair."

Can one person solve all the social inequities? I think one person tried and literally got crucified for it; but more to the point, while one person may not be able to solve the world's problems, one person can make a difference. The idea is not to judge who may be worthy of your time, attention or money; but to act in a compassionate way to make things better. To make things fair. Maybe even just to help someone else through a couple hours that they might not otherwise be able to.

See Also:
  • Earth and Ashes and; The Patience Stone (by Atiq Rahimi)
  • Four Epiphanies (Aggregating Grief)
  • Social Injustice (Atiq Rahimi; The Medford Food Project)
  • A Christmas Carol (by Charles Dickens; narrated by Tim Curry)
  • The Quality of Mercy at 29k (Sports Night, TV sitcom episode, written by Bill Wrubel and Aaron Sorkin; Season 1: 1998-1999) - OK, I know it's not a book and not even something I've seen in at least 13 years; but it is a well-written, funny and relevant episode about Dan Rydell's (played by Josh Charles) choosing a charity. There's one scene in particular, wherein Isaac Jaffe (Robert Guillaume) gives money to a beggar and Dan points out that the beggar probably will spend the money on booze...)

The theme of Social Injustice will likely creep into into some of my reviews next year, though I am not choosing books with that in mind. I can see how any of Dickens' work would lend itself to the theme since Dickens deliberately chose to expose the seamier sides of Victorian London. Next year is Dickens' 200 birth anniversary, and I expect to be revisiting A Christmas Carol in both print and audio. Also, the political victimization of women would be hard to ignore for books like The Handmaid's Tale (by Margaret Atwood), and When She Woke (by Hilary Jordan; narrated by Heather Corrigan.) I don't want to be one of "those people" who always has an axe to grind, though now that I see social injustice, it's really hard to ignore.

☆ Emotional Manipulation: There have been books that have normally been taboo to me: Books that deal with the forced separation of a mother and child; the death of a child, the victimization of a child, etc. And yet, I wanted to read Ellen Meeropol's House Arrest, which is about a nurse who needs to check in on a woman who is accused of killing her daughter during a Winter Solstice rite. The potential for angst was great; but I decided that if I always "read safe" I might as well just relegate my reading to the romance titles available in my grocery store. So I read House Arrest and I was fine and I thought, I can do this, I can venture on unafraid. And then I listened to R.J. Ellory's A Quiet Belief in Angels (narrated by Mark Bramhall.) It's a story featuring a serial killer who targets little girls. None of the narrative takes place from the killer's point of view. Rather, the protagonist's describes what he sees and what he imagines. And I almost fainted in a grocery store parking lot.

One of the literary devices that writers employ with varying degrees of success to manipulate the reader into a specific emotional response is The Child-Killer. The Child Killer is a single-note character who cannot inhabit any morally grey or human area. The Child-Killer can do nothing but provoke rage and disgust from the reader. The Child Killer is a cheap shot, a unidimensional character who cannot evoke sympathy. I would like to say that sometimes The Child-Killer is an opportunity to explore the mindscapes of the other characters and maybe even the reader, and bring home the horror (i.e. A Quiet Belief in Angels); unfortunately the The Child-Killer now proliferates so much of our culture that it has become cliche. I prefer that my reading did not make me feel like I had been keel-hauled and left out hanging to dry, and recognizing The Child Killer for what it is, makes some of The Child-Killers less effective in intimidating me when it comes to my reading. Though I do kinda wonder about certain authors :-/

See also:

I'm hoping to include more human monsters (not necessarily Child Killers) in my reading fare next year and the idea of Nazis seems to fit the bill quite nicely. I've already worked on the epic The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich (by William L. Shirer; narrated by Grover Gardner) and recently read In the Garden of Beasts (by Erik Larson); and I have The Kindly Ones (by Jonathan Littell; narrated by Grover Gardner) on hand; but I'm definitely keeping my eyes peeled for the literary equivalent of Inglourious Basterds. Maybe a comic book series? Recommendations welcome :-)

☆ My Future Self: This final epiphany is not the result of my reading; but from a conversation I had with a fellow blogger. I am not happy living in a rural area; but more to the point, I'm not happy with the person I've become since moving out here (and somehow the move is connected with the person I have become...) Physically and emotionally, I'm not the person I have been in the past nor the person I want to be. But if I work towards the goals of who I want to be, I think I might be less unhappy and maybe even outright happier with who I am. One of the many goals I have towards My Future Self is to become more organized. I used to obsessively neat and organized: cleaning things that were already clean, chronologically filing all my bills, balancing my checkbook, arranging my clothes in my closets chromatically and by sleeve length... But I have become a rather indifferent housekeeper and my home office has become a safety hazard. It seems that, regardless of my efforts, entropy wins. So, in 2012, The Organization begins. I have a couple of books on hand to help: Throw Fifty Things Out (written and narrated by Gail Blanke) and The Hoarder in You: How to Live a Happier, Healthier, Uncluttered Life (by Dr. Robin Zasio; narrated by Cassandra Campbell) to start out. There will be Before and After pictures, status updates and other stuff. And you can either laugh at me, be inspired by me, or offer tips :-)


  1. Good luck with your goals for this year. I'm trying to get organized as well--I wouldn't consider myself a hoarder, but definitely a packrat. Need to cut the clutter and live a simpler life!

    And yes, I do think that happiness comes one step at a time. Happy wishes for you. ;)

  2. Hi Tanya,

    Since you asked for recommendations on books /audiobooks on the darker side of things, I have a read/listen for you that I recorded a month ago that I found extremely compelling.. It's quite chilling, very intense and an amazing journey. It's called "We need to talk about Kevin" by Lionel Shriver. Let me know what you think! Coleen