July in April.

Remember my Valentine’s Day gift to you? The Subconscious Art of Graffiti Removal? I always find things out a few years too late. Did you know that’s Miranda July narrating? I just found that out tonight by the following string of events:

The String of Events:

General boredom leads me to click on the address bar and scroll down to see my past sites visited.

Links include the ordinary (Gmail, Myspace, Youtube, Google, Dictionary, Craigslist) and at least one which is extraordinary: www.learningtoloveyoumore.com, a web project by Miranda July and Harrel Fletcher. This website is precious, but also ingenious, and some day I think I may set about completing some of the challenges it offers.

While visiting Learning to Love you More I click on a link for the Learning To Love You More book because I love the design of the cover. I think for a moment how I typically admire any aesthetic that July has had her fingers on, particularly text aesthetic, particularly the content of that text: the sentences she comes up with.

I think about a time last year when I was in California and, waiting for a friend, found myself killing time in a Barnes & Noble. I picked up a pink copy of July’s then-newly released book No One Belongs Here More Than You. I sat myself down in an overstuffed armchair and began to read the first story or two. Some cruel-hearted employee popped a Barbara Streisand live album in and the entire store was filled for the next hour with such unpleasant sound waves. I could barely enjoy the book, and in fact, gave up eventually, left the store.  This is the memory that I think of, briefly.

I wonder if Miranda July has begun any feature length film projects since Me and You and Everyone We Know. I check IMDB. I notice a film listed in her credits: Subconscious Art of Graffiti Removal–Narrator. Overcome, “It all makes sense now!” I feel I have to tell you, so I sign on to my blog.

But maybe you folks aren’t even fans of Miranda July. Well anyway, years late as always, here is my new favorite website.

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Overdue: Books and le printemps.

I’ve given up on reading C.S. Lewis’ Surprised by Joy. There are too many obscure Classical references, and my thumbs have gotten tired from checking every archaic word that no longer exists in the dictionary. Plus the second due date is approaching (I’ve already renewed) and if I don’t get halfway through a book in a month and a half it’s just not going to happen. It’s a pity–I think that somewhere in that book was something I would be wise to read.

Speaking of books I’ll never finish, I picked up three more from the thrift store on Saturday. Three (short stories) by Flannery O’Connor, The Comedians by Graham Greene, and Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut. Well, I’m sure I’ll finish that last one at some point, but it doesn’t count since I’ve read it before. No repeats! Books shmooks. I admire my friends who can sit down and finish one (or ten), because I can’t seem to muster the attention.

Unrelated, I know we aren’t supposed to apply the word “love” to inanimate objects because it cheapens the emotion, but I just can’t help it: I love our deck! Now that it’s finally gotten warmer outside and the leaves are pushing out of their buds and the neighborhood is coming back to life, I’ve been struck by an incurable bout of spring fever. And there is no better place to suffer through this malady than on our deck. Really. I love it. I do.

(A note: Last year Spring Fever was Jenny Lewis. This year it is Belle and Sebastian. Roll down your windows and listen.)

(Another note, upon second reading: I really grabbed from the standard stock of transitions in this post, didn’t I?  It reads like something I would have blogged four years ago.  Cute, in some ways.  But there, wait, am I becoming a snob?)

If I weren’t so sleepy I’d title this.

Yesterday I learned that I will be having an art show, my first in Madison. I think it goes without saying, but in case it doesn’t, I am pretty excited about this. And right on the tails of my recent announcement that I was retiring from the arts (a declaration I retracted before I heard about this art show, for the record)! So there is the good news, and now for the slightly panic-inducing news, this art show is to take place in the fine month of April, that is to say two weeks from now, that is to say very very soon. That is to say, I have my work cut out for me and let this serve as the regulation disclaimer that I may not be able to write as much here over the next couple of weeks.

Anyway, in between painting breaks today I stopped by the library, as I recently had to return my previous selections (of which I finished only one, Lauren Winner’s, and a couple stories by Capote and Sedaris. As for the Jim Wallis book, I never even cracked it open!). Today I gravitated back toward the graphic novel section and a funny thing happened. I had picked up two books, one by Daniel Clowes and another by Adrian Tomine, and I guess if you’re not familiar with graphic novels they are two of the big shots, and anyway, I couldn’t do it. Normally I love reading those things, but I couldn’t check them out, or any graphic novels for that matter, because they are all so dang depressing. It seems to me like a lot of comic artists feel that to really establish themselves as legitimate adult artists they need to lay on the drugs and profanity and nudity real heavy. Which is no different than your average movie, I guess, but for some reason today it just struck me as really unappealing. So instead? I checked out two books by a couple of pals of mine (at least in my imagination they are my pals), C.S. Lewis and Madeleine L’Engle, both stories about their respective conversions to the Christian faith. I haven’t read anything by L’Engle since A Wrinkle In Time so I am pretty curious about this one.

Well, in other news of the creative variety, I made a song today. Maybe you would like to hear it? It’s called “Door Mat” and it can be found here. Here are the words, if you are interested in that kind of thing:

Door Mat

If it’s a doormat you’re looking for
I think I’ve got one more for you
Right here in storage
And there’s no need to keep it clean
Go on and wipe your feet
And make your joy complete.

For you will get mud on your shoes
And anyone would blame you
When you get their carpet dirty.
And everyone swore you’d been here before
I guess I missed you that day
But I saw your footprints anyway.

Chorus/psychedelic musical interlude

You have dirty soles and the doormat wants to make you whole
He wants to clean them, can you believe him?
You have a dirty sole and the doormat wants to make you whole
He wants to clean it, can you believe it?

Chorus again.

I don’t think that enough songs get written about doormats, anyway. Also, I finally put up the gem of a cover that my friend Laura and I recorded one night when she was visiting. It’s Little Boxes, also on the Family Band page. You will never hear two girls strain so much to hit the high notes! Well, in case you are worried that I spent my whole day working on songs instead of painting, do not worry because I painted also. I love Saturdays :)

Reading and writing can be so exciting, come in, this text is inviting.

The nice thing about libraries is you can pick out a book, take it home without paying for it, read it, bring it back, and pick out another one. Did you know that’s how libraries work? It so neat! I recently checked out a small collection of books that I probably should have just gone ahead and purchased, because I’m sure I won’t finish them before they are due and furthermore I’ll probably wish I owned them once I do read them, books by David Sedaris, Truman Capote, Jim Wallis, and Lauren Winner. Assuming that I’ll probably only finish one of these books in the month that they are in my possession, I decided to start by reading Lauren Winner’s book: Real Sex – The Naked Truth About Chastity. Yowz! It may be the first time I’ve used the s-word in this PG rated blog! Anyway, it’s good, and without creeping into my personal life here I’ll say that it offers a lot of relevant wisdom (particularly to Christ-following singles) and a dose of humbling intellectualism (to anyone who once thought herself smart. Mostly I just envy Winner’s vocabulary.)

I’ve put a few more posts into the All Star section. It is a little bit embarassing to dig through the old blogs like this, there really isn’t much of value. It is also a little alarming, at times, like when I came across a post I wrote in May of 2006 about the man who would become my boyfriend 11 months later, and my ex-boyfriend five months after that. Maybe somewhere along the way I have already written about the man who will one day be my husband, who knows? Blogs can really make your head spin, man. They are a time capsule. Get one.

Take a look, it’s in a book.

I’m not well-read. Probably you have already reached this conclusion based on my sloppy abuse of vocabulary and illogically meandering sentence structure. The fact that I can rarely think of something to write about beyond the actual practice of writing might have tipped you off as well. There are masters to study, word smiths to idolize and emulate, and at the very least there are basic instructors to pay heed. There is a very big literary world out there, and for the most part I am not engaging with it. I was reminded of this fact today when I read about the Wisconsin Book Festival (held annually in Madison) and barely recognized a single participant. Authors, publishers, critics, librarians, and 2nd grade Reading teachers, and everyone else that a blogger (a writer) SHOULD know. But I don’t, because I don’t read. Hardly.

Towards the end of this summer I finished a book cover-to-cover, and the celebration which ensued far surpassed what is respectable. But for me, it was a joyous thing, because it had been that long since I had finished a book. Shortly after that, I finished another, and I’m currently working on my third, Bluebeard, by Kurt Vonnegut (probably the only author that I have a perfect track record of finishing). It’s kind of exciting, this new sense of accomplishment, of betterment.

I recently bought another book which I have been reading out of almost daily: The Message. That is, a Bible, but one which I can understand, given my lack of literary muscle. It’s less “Then saith the Lord Almighty: Hitherto dwelleth thine offspring!” and more “God says: Hey, here’s my son!” This is nothing revolutionary–The Message has been around since the 80s (I think?) and there have been plenty of paraphrased editions of the Bible before that–but for me it means the death of the cliche. For me it means I can read the Bible and go, “…whoa, wait, God said that? I don’t remember that!” And the nice thing about this Bible is that it is paralleled with the New International Version, so I can (and do) run my finger across the page to see how this “new” idea translates from the previous version–the one I am familiar with. Maybe this doesn’t sound that interesting, but for me it is kind of a breakthrough, since I’ve never been very good about reading anything with discipline, let alone the Bible.

Well, I think that these are significant baby steps, that’s why I write them down here. I’m reconnecting with that part of my brain that sees black squiggles on a page, then deciphers them as letters, then links those letters and spaces together to understand words, then watches for other squiggles and dots that set apart sentences, and eventually take these ideas and sends them to some other part of my brain which starts thinking critically. “Yes, I think that’s a great concept!” or “Are you kidding me? That is baloney!” or “Hm, I wonder what would happen if I took this idea and pushed it a few inches to the left…” (And of course there are more than three options.) I don’t think that reading more will make me a better writer; I think that reading more will make me a better thinker, and that that will make me a better writer.

Wait and see, wait and see.

Second grade feminist.

The other day I mentioned that I’ve been reading Ramona and her Mother. Last night I was close to finishing, and in the final chapter Mrs. Quimby mentions to her daughter that Mr. Quimby is going to be starting school at Portland State. The school that rejected me! For some reason this made me feel a little bit of something, I’m not sure what.

Continuing the tradition of being a 2nd grade girl, I have these bottles of American Girl shampoo and conditioner (a gift!) and besides smelling incredible, they also offer young girls bits of advice on the back label, advice regarding “real beauty.” Most likely these are meant to be inspirational, if not empowering, but it occurred to me during a recent shower just how far off the mark they actually are. For example, on the back of the shampoo bottle reads, “Real beauty is thinking before you speak.” What? Shouldn’t that say, “Real beauty is speaking your mind”? Or “Real beauty is speaking the truth”? Or something that doesn’t sound like a 17th century chauvinist wrote it? Sure, there is something to be said about prudent speech, but there is also something very unnatural about prudent, well-spoken girls. Girls are supposed to express themselves! Or maybe that’s what the American Girl people where trying to say with “Real beauty is wearing your favorite color.” Girls, look nice and don’t talk. That’s the real message of American Girl. Ramona would not approve.

If your last name is Wilder does that compensate for your dull subject matter?

On my lunch breaks I’ve been reading Thornton Wilder’s Our Town. I’m not quite sure why it’s a classic, except that it is classically boring. This is really supposed to be the definitive American play? Really? People live and marry and die? Really? It’s a bit too sugary for my taste. If I have to read about the Stage Manager smiling warmly at the audience one more time, I think I might toss my invisible cookies (all stage props are imagined, remember. How novel!) I wonder if it really is in a time capsule somewhere as Wilder intended. I pity the souls of the future who dig this one up.

I guess to save face I should mention that I haven’t finished reading the third act yet. Maybe something incredible happens (besides more life, marriage and death, that is.) If so, consider this my advance withdrawal of above statement. Here here.

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