Sunday, March 21, 2010

‘The Invention of Hugo Cabret’ by Brian Selznick

I highly recommend borrowing ‘The Invention of Hugo Cabret’ by Brian Selznick from the library, especially if you’re a preteen or younger, or you have children and you’re looking for a good, wholesome book for them.

It’s conceptually more unique than any other book I’ve read, but its story felt so timeless and classic that it flows and reads like a film illuminating in the back your mind. Essentially, it’s half novel and half picture book, and it feels like a cinematic experience. If you were ever a child who read a hand drawn picture book and never wanted it to end, this is the book for you… well it ends, but you’ll be engulfed in a 500 page tale before it does. The novel’s pacing and flow is exquisite and the drawings are timeless and detailed. Don’t get me wrong, this is a kid to young adult book, but it’s very wholesome and very refreshing.

On a side note, I noticed there’s an audio CD format… don’t get that, just don’t. You’ll miss half of the book and it’ll ruin the experience.

Also, it’s rumored Martin Scorsese might make a movie based on it. I mean, if you need a better reason…

Update (12/17/11):
And it's better than the movie.

‘Postsecret: Confessions of Life, Death, and God’ collected by Frank Warren

If you haven't heard about postsecret, it's a community that anonymously mails their deepest secrets on postcards.

Most of their secrets are revealing and insightful, some are heartfelt, heartwarming, and shameful, a few are down right hilarious. ‘Postsecret: Confessions of Life, Death, and God’ is composed of more than two hundred postcards and a few short stories based on the theme of— life, death, and religion.

Unfortunately, it's only 270 pages, which sounds like a lot but each page contains about one sentence, and the only complaint I had was that it could be finished in one sitting.

‘Life of Pi’ by Yann Martel

I highly recommend ‘Life of Pi’ by Yann Martel, but I read the end of it on a five hour train ride from Fort Worth to San Marcos, Texas, and the people next to me started being loud so I skimmed through the last few pages so I could find another seat. I've recently reread the last ten pages, and they're fairly graphic.

Still, the book maintained colorful animals and a charming sense of humor for two hundred pages that were sophisticated enough for adults and stimulating enough for preteens and young teenagers... until the end. Don't say I didn't warn you, I had nightmares.

Also, the beginning of the book shifted from regular font to italicized font; the regular font takes place in the past, which is in first person, and the italicized font is the present, which is in third person. It sounds complicated, it isn't.

‘The Last Lecture’ by Randy Pausch

‘The Last Lecture’ by Randy Pausch is easily the best nonfiction book I’ve ever read. Personally, I fell in love with the humility of the copy that I borrowed from the library. Unlike most books on the New York Time’s best seller list, ‘The Last Lecture’ was situated in the stuffy mathematics and computer section. Think about it; when’s the last time you went to the old computer manuals section of your local library.

Essentially, Randy Pausch was a renowned professor of virtual reality, but he was so much more than a man between the walls of academia; he was person. As a child he had aspiring dreams, and as an adult, he lived and preached a fulfilling and wholesome lifestyle. In a lot of ways, it’s similar to a self-help book, where he offers conventional wisdom to the readers and attendants of his actual last lecture, but it’s more than a spokesperson or physiologist attempting to sell a book and make a profit; he’s going to die. This is it. And he delivers on so many levels.

Also, I’m the type of person who likes to finish a book in one or two sittings just to be done with it, but you can feel the gravity of his words and everything that’s written feels important and intentional. If you read this book, which I highly recommend, read slow and soak it in.

‘A Winkle in Time’ by Madeleine L'Engle

I finished ‘A Winkle in Time’ by Madeleine L'Engle. I didn’t like it. I thought it was blatantly preachy and condescending toward children. I understand that I’m several years past the novel’s targeted audience, but children’s novels don’t have to market toward a single minded agenda. Like Antoine de Saint-ExupĂ©ry's ‘The Little Prince,’ children's fantasy books can be vivid and imaginative, hopeful and educational.

‘A Wrinkle in Time’ is a disservice toward its genre since it’s labeled a classic in terms of children’s science fiction and fantasy, and if kids assume this is the best novel literary minds have to offer them, they’ll stop reading altogether. They’ll turn on the television and watch some other mindless dribble that they’ll actually enjoy.

No really, I didn’t like it.

‘Life as We Knew It’ by Susan Pfeffer

I just finished reading ‘Life as We Knew It’ by Susan Pfeffer, and I thoroughly enjoyed it, except the first thirty pages where the protagonist acted like a self involved teenage girl, which was appropriate because—she was a self involved teenage girl.

What transcends this novel from others in the ‘dooms day’ genre would be its attention to details. From its delicate character development to the immersive realism, the novel captures a snapshot of the global catastrophe. Its imagery seemed so crisp with describing the empathy of family and the apathy of strangers, and its scope felt like it pinpointed the worldwide disaster to a single person in one of a billion families. It sincerely portrayed the feeling of a modern day dust bowl and the desperation of the great depression.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Short Stories and Video Ideas

The Bedtime Story
(an old video idea)

Somewhere in a desolate tower, a young girl waited. She's trapped in most ways. Originally, a wyvern guarded the stone tower with its fire laced breaths and imposing wings and pincers. The beast was known throughout the land, and so was its trapped captive. Her legend spread. Some parents used her story as a cautionary tale meant to scary children away from strangers while others embellished her accounts to catalyze kids' imagination or induce their fantasies; she was even a princess in most tales. But while her story spread, she waited; kept alive by the vain hope someone would come to her rescue. Eventually, parents fabricated happy endings, which filtered their children's innocence, and the tragedy of the young girl was resolved in the minds of most who heard the tale. And while fairtale prospered and callow kids slept peacefully at night, the young girl continued to wither as she waits for her real, brave knight.
The next two short stories have the same setting and characters so I guess they go together.
A Book by Its Cover

She spread her arms out while we paced through the isles of books, and the tips of her fingers skimmed across the spines of hard covered novels. We walked and her finger tips carried a cadence like the spokes of a bicycle wheel hitting against a baseball card; along with our light steps and the swooshing of her jeans, it was almost hypnotic and we continued down the paperbound rabbit hole. Eventually, we slowed and her eyes darted from book to book, title to title. She skimmed, and she said, ‘Sometimes I come here to feel like a metaphoric picture.’ A side of her lips pursed, and she nearly formed a smile. ‘I want to read dramatic words or phrases with their eclectic fonts and sizes and different textures and colors. I like the old ones that show their age.’ She opened a book, one that was worn with scuffed and amber pages. She put it back on the shelf and continued skimming through the titles. ‘And in just a few minutes I can look back across the shelves until the lanes converge and disappear. I can look and feel like a picture. My eyes would have seen more than a thousand words.’

That was the reason we were alone in the library.

Most people read for escapism. They want to walk along the canvas of someone’s fictitious world and milk the pages of their knowledge and wisdom, their tales and adventures. And while I watched her read different titles and the names of authors who’ve died or remained forgotten, I’m reminded that this girl didn’t want to escape through someone else's painted fiction or become saturated with knowledge or wit. As she looked through shelves of books, her intentions were unmistakable. She didn’t want escapism, she wanted to be lost.

I gave her a weak smile, and she politely returned the expression. Her beautiful eyes peered up at mine as if to say, It’s alright, really. I would feel sorry for me too.


There were cushioned seats with wooden tables on either side of the book shelves, but she passively sat between the tightly woven walls of hard covered books that towered above our heads. Sometimes she nodded her gaze upwards, almost toward the ceiling, and she very slightly grinned. I think she liked being overwhelmed; she felt secure in the fortress of literary fiction and the softness of the thousands and thousands of pages.

Suddenly we heard footsteps breaching through the silence, and a man appeared with a small piece of paper etched with a book’s call number. His eyes weaved through the rows as they hastily skimmed through the spines. He paused for a moment. He looked at his sheet and back to the shelves, then back to his sheet and back to the shelves. The routine was unmistakable; he was looking for something that wasn’t there.

Eventually, he walked away empty handed; he even left his piece of paper.

“Sometimes I feel like a book,” she said after the spectacle. “Most people don’t want to be thought of as books; the metaphor has become synonymous with being boring or predictable. I think that’s pessimistic. Just because something’s literally written in front of your eyes doesn’t mean it’s simplistic. Poetry, which uses the fewest amounts of words, can have the most convoluted explanations. Supposed intellectuals have carried hundreds of debates and written dozens of books over the simplest of sentences or shortest of stanzas. If I was a book, I’d have depth. I’d have color and intrigue. People would want to read me, and then reread me just to have the slightest understanding of my character, of my essence and being.”

Her eye peered at the piece of paper left on the shelves, wedged between the space where the book should have been located.

“There are thousands of books here,” she continued. “It wouldn’t be hard for the librarian to confuse the call numbers, maybe place a fiction novel near the old computer manuals by accident; that novel would be destitute. Anyone who’d want the book wouldn’t know where to find it.” Her eyes strayed away from the torn notebook paper and looked across the rows and rows of bound, paper columns. “Sometimes I feel like a book, the most interesting book that everyone would want to read and reread, except I haven’t been opened in a while.” She sighed, a gasp that nearly exhaled every last hope in her body. “And my greatest fear would be that I’ve been displaced. I'd be stuck somewhere I shouldn't be, and no matter how much I'd try, I'd still be alone.”

There was a moment, a short second filled with indignant self-deprecation where her face was numb and blank. And then she laughed, the type of laugh that quickly restored blood flow and caused her to dub over in shortness of breath and pain. As I kneeled by her side, she grabbed my hand and our arms lulled from side to side as she asked in witty banter, “But I’ll always have you, my trusty old computer manual; you’ll be here, right?”

And I replied, “Of course, my favorite little novel.”