Monthly Archives: January 2013

Review of Destiny’s Road by Larry Niven

I first discovered Larry Niven through a friend’s father, who leant me Ringworld, which I loved so much that I eagerly borrowed Ringworld Engineers and Protector upon finishing it. These, too, I immensely enjoyed. So I happily grabbed Destiny’s Road for pleasure reading after finishing David Lindsay-Abaire’s Rabbit Hole.

Niven, as always, does an excellent job with world building: he creates not only a visually compelling natural environment but also an intricate, commentating social context for his characters. I felt immediately familiar with Spiral Town and its inhabitants, the alien vermin and fauna, and the difficulties faced by this small, struggling colony on the planet Destiny.

The major environmental difficulty faced by the individuals revolves around a plant product called speckles, which is their only source of potassium. Without it, they go mad and eventually die. Their supply of speckles is controlled entirely by the caravans of merchants that come at regular intervals.

Jemmy Bloocher grows up in Spiral Town asking questions about the huge road the caravans take to come to the town, wondering where it leads, where the caravans go, where they get their speckles. These questions, along with some random and somewhat unfortunate events, spur Jemmy to seek answers to these questions.

Yes, Niven delves into socio-political commentary, the ethics of scientific research, the influence of economy on society, and the importance of shared knowledge in technological growth and development. He argues against oppression of a people for mere use as a control group. He demonstrates that economy can produce a class division and power dynamic that oppresses certain people groups. He asserts that security of scientific and historical knowledge and the corresponding ignorance of those forbidden this knowledge produces an information gap and an ability to oppress the uninformed. Niven makes excellent points along these lines through his vivid world.

However, the plot is lacking. Very lacking. There is no motivation, no prominent conflict other than Jemmy Bloocher’s questions about the Road and its merchant caravans. I struggled to finish the book simply because I felt no compulsion to see something resolved. And while Jemmy does find answers to his questions, they are somewhat predictable answers and left me with no catharsis whatsoever.

In the last few pages of the book, Jemmy seeks to end the power dynamic and oppression of the control group. This would have made for a compelling plot if Niven had drawn this out and raised the stakes. There was such potential in this! But no. The usually creative and compelling Niven seems to get tired of the book by the end and simply lets the whole plan succeed without failure in the course of a few listless pages. I was so moved by Jemmy’s efforts here that I took a nap before reading the last few pages.

Don’t get me wrong, Larry Niven is usually great. But please, read Ringworld or related books—forget about Destiny’s boring road.

Review of As You Wish

As You Wish (1)

Viola’s life took a nosedive when her boyfriend (and best friend) Lawrence broke up with her seven months ago. Though Viola can’t blame Lawrence for being gay, she still wishes that someone would love her the way she thought Lawrence did. She wishes so hard for this that she accidentally summons a young genie, whom she calls Jinn. Jinn is not happy to have been pulled from his perfect world to grant three wishes to a an indecisive high school girl. Viola is too terrified of the repercussions of making wishes, forcing Jinn to live in the human world he detests for longer than he’s ever had. But the longer he stays in Viola’s world, the more he understands her world, and most importantly, her. Viola, too, becomes more attached to Jinn, and eventually she becomes reluctant to ever use her wishes, because once she voices number three, Jinn will disappear forever.

As You Wish is Jackson Pearce’s first novel, but she handles the dual-character storytelling with skill. Viola and Jinn alternate chapters, and it’s great to watch them progress through the story together. Jinn grows believably from a snide, bored genie to a being that feels human emotions to the point where he almost longs to be human. Viola possesses a large number of insecurities, but somehow never comes across as whiny. Her hurt at Lawrence suddenly coming out to her is believable (besides the fact that everyone else seemed to know, he decided to tell Viola as she was gearing up to sleep with him), but the reader doesn’t fault her for staying friends with  him.

Pearce has a great way of raising the stakes throughout the book. Besides Viola being afraid to wish, first because of the repercussions and then because she likes Jinn, Pearce adds in that most of the time, when humans don’t wish, they get a “press”- that is, one of the higher-ups in the jinn world makes something happen in the human’s life that will force them to wish, usually something traumatic.  Usually Jinn is eager for a press, but when he starts to reciprocate Viola’s feelings, he does everything he can to prevent it. Unfortunately, he can’t, and the worry about how the higher-ups will press Viola kind of eats away at you for a few chapters.

The best part of the book are the relationships: Viola’s determined dedication to Lawrence, his slightly pitying (platonic) love for her, and Jinn’s growing affection for Viola as he recognizes the earnest longings within her. The only relationship I disliked was that between Viola and her parents. Pearce falls into the stereotypical YA trap of giving Viola conveniently absent parents, and it’s actually worse that she comments on it. Viola’s parents don’t seem to care about their daughter at all.

As You Wish isn’t good for a first novel, it’s just good. It’s unfortunately hard to find, but find it you should!

Review of Naomi and Ely’s No Kiss List

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“I lie all the time,” reports Naomi in the first line of Naomi and Ely’s No Kiss List. From  the authors of Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist comes a new collab book. Though I didn’t read Nick and Norah, I’ve read a few of David Levithan’s books and heard Rachel Cohn speak, and they seemed like the sort of writers who could effectively write an enjoyable book together.

Naomi and Ely tells the story of, well, Naomi and Ely, two NYU freshman who have lived across the apartment-building hall from each other since they were small kids. But a few months ago, something big happened: one of Ely’s moms cheated on his other mom with Naomi’s dad. Though Naomi tells Ely it’s okay, that things are fine now, she’s still working through the sadness over her dad leaving and supporting her mom through her deep, clinical-depression sadness that causes her to stay in bed every minute that she’s not at work. But Naomi is determined not to let this disaster affect her relationship with Ely, because they’re best friends, and what’s more, they’re soul mates. They’re so much soul mates that even though Ely is very clearly gay, Naomi is still in love with him and is determined that he’s going to be her first. As she says, “I can wait.” So when Ely kisses Naomi’s boyfriend, it’s doubly hurtful- not only because her boyfriend cheated on her with her best friend, but because Ely making out with a boy means that Ely is really, truly gay.

I really liked this book, which was a nice surprise; for some reason, I expected not to. But despite its absolutely-teen-bookish cover, and its seemingly shallow main characters, Naomi and Ely is an excellent book about deep friendships, and the ins and outs of relationships in general. The novel is partly narrated by each of the title characters, and because we get to hear both their sides, the story is twice as affecting. The kiss- or rather, the admission of the kiss- happens in the first chapter, and from then on, Naomi and Ely are trying to figure out how the kiss affects the relationship between the two of them. At first, Naomi acts like she doesn’t care. After all, her boyfriend wasn’t on the No Kiss List (the list of kissable people that, should they be kissed by one of the pair, would surely tear apart the friendship.) Plus, she’s the kind of beautiful that turns heads. She can get a new guy in a second. But she doesn’t want a new guy. She wants her boyfriend. Well, actually… she wants Ely. Badly. When trying to talk Ely out of liking her boyfriend Bruce the Second, Naomi elects for the freeze out, which causes both title characters extreme pain. They’re mad at each other, but they miss their childhood best friend terribly. Levithan and Cohn make us feel their pain acutely.

The novel is narrated by a large number of people, each getting a chapter here and there to voice their part of the ongoing story: Naomi, of the title, her best friend Ely, Robin (a girl, and a friend of Naomi’s), Robin (a boy, and a friend of Robin Girl’s), Bruce the First (past boyfriend of Naomi), Bruce the Second (present boyfriend of Naomi), Gabriel (doorman in Naomi, Ely, and Bruce the Firsts’ building), and Kelly, Bruce the First’s twin sister. While I do enjoy books written from various point of views, and while I think most of the characters’ voices were helpful to the storytelling, some of them, like Kelly (who has one chapter) and Robin Boy (who also has one chapter), didn’t make much of a contribution.  It was, however, nice to get several different viewpoints on the same story.

One thing I absolutely hated about the book is Naomi’s use of symbols in her chapters. For some reason, the authors chose to have Naomi communicate using symbols instead of certain words- for example, a picture of an eye for “I,” or a raincloud for “rain,” a yin-yang symbol for “equilibrium.” Not only were these symbols annoying to come across because they made the reading clunky, but the authors lost their dedication to them as the book went on. Where Naomi’s first chapter is littered with pictures, some chapters only have one or two. Plus, sometimes I had no idea what they symbols were supposed to be standing in for. At one point, Naomi’s rant is interrupted by a string of pictures of ears, gradually getting bigger. I am staring at the pictures as I type this. I still have no idea what they’re supposed to mean.

But despite the annoying symbols that crop up, I loved this book because of what it said about relationships. “It is not easy,” Ely says toward the end. “Things that matter are not easy. Feelings of happiness are easy. Happiness is not. Flirting is easy. Love is not. Saying you’re friends is easy. Being friends is not. ” Nothing worth having or feeling is easy, but always, always worth it. I wish more YA books covered this message. This one’s a good start.

Choice quotes:

Ely extracts his one hand from mine, gives his hot chocolate over to me to hold with his other hand, and then places both his hands together at his mouth, to warm them. I want to do the breathing for him.

It strikes me for the gazillionth time that [Naomi] is completely fucking beautiful. And I love it, because my love for her has absolutely nothing to do with that. I love her because she’ll hold the elevator for me even if heading downstairs without me would make more of a point […] I love her because when I feel like putting my head in an over, she’ll gently take it out and bake me cookies instead […] I love her because even though she doesn’t always tell the truth, she always feels like she should. I love her because I don’t need to love her all the time.

I’m so tired of being uncool. You can dress me up, give me  a cool boyfriend, even laugh at one of my jokes every now and then- but then anxiety always gives it away.

I notice her. I notice something’s happened. I notice she’s as beautiful as ever, but that she hasn’t put any thought into it. I notice she needs sleep and a conversation and a kiss from someone who isn’t me. I notice she’s still angry at me but that there are other emotions there as well. I notice her the way you notice the differences in someone that’s been gone a long time. And it hasn’t been a long time. It’s only been long for us.

I find Naomi sleeping in my bed- sleeping off all the sleeplessness of the past months, sleeping past all the tiredness. Seeing her like that, the sheets scrunched up in her hands (she’s always been a total sheet-snatcher) and her one foot dangling over the side (she always likes it to be free), I feel like I know her. Really know her. And part of really knowing her is also knowing that I don’t necessarily know her as well as I think I do. Which is okay. We should each have our own damn souls.

Review of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

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When Stuart and I were in sixth grade, this new advanced English class was created. We both took the admission test that year to be accepted for the next school year. He got in. I did not, and so was forced to endure boring, slow-moving on-level seventh grade English. Because I was quite obviously bored, my lovely teacher decided to give me something different to read, and that something different was Betty Smith’s A Tree Grows in Brooklyn.

I remember loving the book as a twelve year-old, but save for one line about blackened pennies, I didn’t remember anything else. I wanted to read it again, but assumed it would be a slog like Jane Eyre (which I read over the summer and have yet to write a review for because I hated it so much.) To my pleasant surprise, I LOVED my second reading of the book.

The book follows Francie, who ages from eleven to sixteen as the story goes on, with lots of flashbacks to her earlier childhood. Francie lives in a small Brooklyn slum apartment with her parents and her little brother Neeley in the early twentieth century. Her parents are the children of immigrants, and Katie and Johnny are determined to give their children good lives… but they don’t really know how. Johnny is a constantly-drunk, usually out-of-work singing waiter, leaving Katie to support her family as a janitress. The book follows the struggles of the Nolan family, and Francie in particular, as they try to realize dreams, make life better, and keep up with the quickly-changing world.

I adore Francie as a character. She’s smart, tough, and imaginative. I love how determined she is to make something out of herself. From a young age, she decides she wants to be a writer and works toward that constantly, save for the time she’s torn down by a teacher for writing “disgusting” fiction that are actually essays based on Francie’s own life. I also loved reading about her non-writing adventures: trading bits of cloth for money, getting attacked by a murderer (who would have kidnapped and killed her if Katie didn’t shoot him), pledging her undying love to a soldier she knows for one day, and her musings on life in general.

Her family, too, is complex and layered. Smith allows us a peek at the family history on both sides and it only adds to an already rich storyline. My favorite part about knowing the backstory of the family is how much it helps develop Katie’s relationship with her children. As soon as Neeley is born, barely a year after Francie, Katie knows immediately that she will love him more than her daughter. The feeling only grows stronger as Francie gets older, mostly because the two are so alike. As she grows up, Francie realizes this, and toward the end of the book, she says after they fight, “Don’t be mad at me, Mama, because I fought you. You, yourself, taught me to fight for what I thought was right.” “You’re like me that way,” Katie answers. Francie thinks, “And that’s where the trouble is.  We’re too much alike to understand each other because we don’t even understand our own selves […] Mama understands Neeley because he’s different from her. I wish I was different in the way Neeley is.”

I know a few people who read this book once a year, and I kind of wish I did that growing up too, simply because the differences between how I read it at twelve and how I read it at twenty-two were so incredible. At twelve, I think I focused more on the beginning of the story, where Francie was closer to my then-age; I couldn’t really relate to the chapters where Francie got a job and experienced romance and, in general, grew up. This time, though, I read about sixteen year-old Francie and felt like Smith had read my diary from her grave. In this way, I believe that A Tree Grows in Brooklyn is not only great for kids and young adults, but adults as well. I love when books written so long ago (in this case, the 1940s) are still relevant to readers today.

Of course, not all of the book is necessarily for kids. Not that there’s anything terribly graphic, but Smith doesn’t gloss over Johnny’s long-developing fatal illness, the dangers of childbirth, the desperation of life in the slums, the intents of the murder that corners Francie, and sex. There’s a lot of sex talk in this book, something I didn’t pick up on as a pre-teen. But rather than being inappropriate, it’s just accurate of the learnings and yearnings of growing up, and especially for a writer in the 1940s, I respect the inclusion.

Read A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. Just read it. It’s amazing, and you’ll probably want to read it over and over and over.

Choice quotes:

On Sunday, most people crowded into the eleven o’clock mass. Well, some people, a few, went to the early six o’clock mass. They were given credit for this but they deserved none for they were the one who had stayed out so late that it was morning when they got home.

He wants to keep on living even though he’s so old and there’s nothing to be happy about anymore.

Poor people have a great passion for huge quantities of things.

Things were changing so fast for Francie now, that she got mixed up. Neeley who was a year younger than she, grew suddenly and got to be a head taller. Maudie Donovan moved away. When she returned on a visit three months later, Francie found her different. Maudie had developed in a womanly way during those three months. Francie, who knew mama was always right, found out that she was wrong once in awhile.

“Carney did not pinch my cheek today. He pinched something else. I guess I’m getting too big to sell junk.”

“Haven’t you any girl friends to talk to, Francie?”
“No. I hate women.”
“That’s not natural. It would do you good to  talk things over with girls your own age.”
“Have you any women friends, Mama?”
“No, I hate women,” said Katie.
“See? You’re just like me.”
“But I had a girl friend once and I got your father through her. So you see, a girl friend comes in handy sometimes.”

When Francie came in off the cold street she thought that the warmth was like a lover’s arms around her drawing her into the room. She wondered, incidentally, exactly what a lover’s arms felt like.

“I need someone,” thought Francie desperately. “I need someone. I need to hold somebody close. And I need more than this holding. I need someone to understand how I feel at a time like now. And the understanding must be part of the holding […] I need someone to love in a different way from the way I love [my family.] If I talked to mama about it, she’d say, ‘Yes? Well, when you get that feeling don’t linger in dark hallways with the boys.’ She’d worry, too, thinking I was going to be the way Sissy used to be. But it isn’t an Aunt Sissy thing because there’s this understanding that I want almost more than I want the holding.”

She liked Ben. She liked him an awful lot. She wished that she could love him. If only he wasn’t so sure of himself all the timeIf only he’d stumble- just once. If only he needed her. Ah, well.

Review of Stolen

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I took issue with the premise of Stolen at first. In the novel by Lucy Christopher, a sixteen year-old English girl named Gemma is annoyed at her social climber parents and slips away from them at the Bangkok airport to buy coffee. At the cafe, she meets a handsome, oddly familiar stranger who drugs her drink and kidnaps her. When she finally wakes up in Australia, her captor makes it quite clear that he plans to make her fall in love with him… and then she kind of does.
As a feminist, I’ve got a little bit of a problem with the idea of the younger, weaker girl falling in love with the big strong man just because he wants her to. But I decided to give the book a chance because of the Printz Award seal on the cover; as far as I know, they don’t give out those awards lightly.

I ended up loving the book. While yes, I didn’t like the idea of Gemma falling for Ty simply because he was the only guy around and it was a teen novel, Stockholm Syndrome exists and is common in situations like Gemma’s: you’re sequestered with one person who might possibly kill you. Besides trying to humanize yourself to them so they won’t murder you, they might convince you that they, too, have a soul (and worst of all, they might actually have one.)

Christopher’s novel is very well-paced and emotionally (and sometimes physically) action-filled. Gemma is fantastically resilient throughout most of the book, making sure that Ty doesn’t touch her in any way and trying to escape every chance she gets. Unfortunately, because they’re in the middle of the Australian outback, escape is pretty much impossible. Even after a month, when Gemma starts to adapt to life there, she tries her hardest to let Ty know that she’s just as desperate to leave. The emotion in the novel in general is great; I really felt Gemma’s intense hopelessness when she firsts realizes where she is and that she might very well be killed. Her fear is palpable in the words Christopher uses, and she never overdoes it.

Possibly the best part about Christopher’s book are the scenes you don’t expect. It would be easy enough to have Ty keep Gemma in a house that he’s stocked with food and water, but Christopher makes Ty a bit of an adventurer. At one point, he takes Gemma along to help him catch a camel, a scene that I hope Christopher didn’t have to experience to write (it’s very dangerous and potentially fatal if something goes wrong.) I was also happy that the forced (or worse, consensual) sex scene, or even a kiss, did not make an appearance in the novel. I also loved that Ty did have a soul. Though I was less convinced of his goodness than other reviewers of the novel, his backstory is very complex and interesting. It makes the reader and Gemma both question which life was worse for her: the one with her fake, forceful parents whose love is questionable (even at the end of the novel) or the one with her truthful, forceful captor who has loved her for years.

Suffice it to say that, despite my initial reservations, I loved Stolen. Trust the Printz Award seal- it hasn’t steered me wrong yet!

Choice quotes:

I’d never imagined that you’d have a story, too. Until that moment, you were just the kidnapper. You didn’t have reasons for anything. You were stupid and evil and mentally ill. That was all.

Mum’s face went pale as she studied me, her lips pinched and tight. “What did he do to you?” she asked. “What did he do to you to make you think like this?”

Review of Beguiled

Beguiled

Beguiled is a collab novel co-written by two very different authors: J. Mark Bertrand is a crime novelist, while Deeanne Gist is known for her inspirational historical romances. I found out about this book because I am a fan of Deeanne Gist’s, having picked up a book of hers in an Amish grocery store in my and Stuart’s home county of Lancaster, PA. The union of these two authors is a strange one, but ultimately successful.

Beguiled centers on a dogwalker working in Charleston’s wealthiest neighborhood. Though Rylee has never had problems at her jobs before, suddenly a thief begins to break into houses in the neighborhood- and most of them are her clients’ residences. While Rylee is innocent and sure she’s being targeted, the police and reporter Logan Woods aren’t so sure. Caught in the middle of using the story as fiction inspiration and as part of his job, Logan gets closer to having to make some big decisions as the case becomes more serious: choosing between the job he wants and the job that pays, and choosing between what the evidence says and the girl it points toward.

I wasn’t sure what this novel would be. In fact, though I purchased it as a fan of Gist’s, the book sat on my shelf for a good two years before I actually read it. After all, I’d never read any of Bertrand’s work, and everything I’d read of Gist’s was historical. What was I doing with this contemporary crime book? But the novel was a pleasant surprise. Though I can pick out Gist’s style here and there (which is a good thing), the writing blends the two styles very well. Never did I become distracted by oddly sewn-together paragraphs or a character speaking differently depending on the chapter. Had I not known it was a collab novel, I never would have guessed.

The story, too, is compelling. Though it’s marketed as a “romantic suspense” novel, it’s not really. Yes, Rylee has a crush on a supporting character and Logan develops one on Rylee, by page 150, there hasn’t even been a kiss, let alone anything that would push this book into  the romance section. And it’s perfectly fine; the pacing of the novel lends itself to such a set-up. The characters are very well-developed, their backstories revealed with perfect timing.

One very small thing that I took issue with was Rylee’s name. I know I am not alone in hating when authors give their characters super trendy names. How many Blairs and Addisons and Rydens can there be in one book? And while Rylee (Riley/Ryleigh/whatever) is more of a weird spelling of a more common name, it still stuck out glaringly. Worse, Logan even mocks how strange the name is multiple times… but then no explanation comes as to why she is named thus.

As mentioned, the book itself is very well-paced, taking its time to reveal the perpetrator and leading up to exciting action scenes. Though the book isn’t laden with them, I think the three or so that exist are good enough; perhaps someone who reads more suspense novels would think otherwise. I was really pleased with how well this collab novel read, and I kind of hope these two authors will work together again!

Choice quotes:

He was close enough to touch her with his voice.

2012 in Review

RACHEL’S 2012

I’m so happy Stuart and I started this blog. Looking back, I can see how much this project has changed the way I approach books and reading. When I was in college, I did a shamefully small amount of recreational reading. This blog challenged me to make time for the thing I’ve loved to do my entire life: read books I’m interested in reading. Because I tried to review fairly regularly, not only did I get to return to some of my favorite books, I also read novels that had been sitting on my shelf for years, untouched, as well as pick up books that I’d always wanted read but never got around to. I read books I loved, books I hated, and books that made me go “eh.” I just read. That’s the most important part: I finally got back to reading.

Because I knew I would reviewing almost every book I picked up, I also approached reading them in a new way. I’ve always been one to mark passages that I like, but I was also searching for the skill of the writing, the character development, plot points, and the overall merit of the book: things I’d always stored away subconsciously but rarely voiced. Writing this blog has made me a more thoughtful reader and has provided me with a deeper reading experience. Also, because I spent my final semester of college ensconced in my playwriting thesis, I rediscovered then and now how important it is for a writer to read. Not only does it allow you to experience other writers’ voices, but it helps you to find your own.

I can’t wait to keep up these experiences in 2013. I’ve got a few reviews waiting in the wings of the blog already, and I just went to the library and picked up a few new books to get me through the slow season at work. My goal is to read some more classics. I will admit that it probably won’t be many; I dislike classics in general. However, I would like to have a deeper knowledge of literature, and reading some earlier books certainly wouldn’t hurt. I also want to branch out into other genres, both within my usual area of YA and outside of it.

I also want to write more. I did quite a bit of writing in the first half of 2012 simply because I took a poetry and fiction writing class, and of course, my thesis was writing a play. I also had a very fruitful summer, writing-wise. I also had a play of mine selected for production. But in dealing with some issues that began in September or so, I really petered out. I started to write a play and put it aside as I tried to do NaNoWriMo for the fifth year running. For the first time since 2008, I failed to pen 50,000 words in November because I just couldn’t make myself write; now I’ve lost the momentum on my play. But I’m itching to get started on another serious writing project, so hopefully the juices will be flowing again soon.

My big resolution for 2013 is to be kinder to myself: to allow myself to make mistakes without beating myself up over them. That goes for this blog. Contributing to it is important and helpful to me, but from now on, I won’t feel guilty if I go a few weeks without a post, or if I’m reading more slowly than usual. I’m going to take things as they come and perform to the best of my ability, as a reader, a blogger, a writer, and a human being.

STUART’S 2012

Like Rachel, I am delighted that the two of us started this blog. In college, I spent the vast majority of my time engrossed in my studies and research in physics, making little time for pleasure reading (or much reading at all outside physics and astronomy, much to the chagrin of my literature and history professors). When the two of us decided to start this blog, I was excited because I knew I would force myself to take more time to read for myself, for pleasure, something I missed immensely.

What I did not expect was the way this would change me as a reader. I have always read critically—that’s something I try to do so every time I pick up a book. But at the end of it, I would put it down and move on to something else. Working up a review after reading a book has made me take the time to piece together my thoughts, to assemble an image of the work as a whole, to form my opinions from a thorough analysis. Instead of just drawing on my personal engrossment and final catharsis, I became a reader engaged after the book was finished and back on the shelf. Which, for me, has been good.

As a writer, I have changed dramatically. When this blog started, I was stuck in a horrendous muck of writer’s block. Reading again and being more engaged in that reading helped to dredge me up from that ditch and put me on the path to writing again. I then found that being more focused and thoughtfully involved as a reader has caused me to pay attention to details of character development, dialogue, conflict, imagery, and other such stuff which composes a work of literature. While in the past I have drawn on “good” literature to help myself learn and grow as a writer, this scrutiny has helped me to truly grow as a writer as I began to focus on these details in my own work.

That being said, I also took the time to glean some really good ideas from the better pieces I reviewed for the blog, such as Stoppard’s Arcadia, Frayn’s Copenhagen, and Glück’s Ararat, and have started to mull them over in my head before putting into writing some of my own reflections on issues such as the nature of time and reality, the role of knowledge in life, the context of the individual within the whole of society.

This last point has forced me to consider something crucial to my identity as a writer: my audience (I am reminded of the rhetorical triangle that many of us have encountered in our experience as young writers). Yes, I am only one voice in seven billion. But if I am to make that voice heard, to make it powerful and affective, I must understand that I am not one just one voice in an endless cacophony of noise: my writing can reach people. And while I am not published and barely make enough time for this blog, I find myself challenged and inspired by the question David Mitchell asks at the end of Cloud Atlas:
“Yet what is any ocean but a multitude of drops?”

With that in mind, I have begun efforts to produce a play that I wrote (and revised maybe a dozen times—writing is rewriting!) and am finishing revisions of several of my better poems to submit for publication in literary magazines. I’ve come to realize, through my experiences with Ambidexteri this year, that writing can make a difference. And it is my hope and vision to share my written voice as drop in the sea of voices, even if only to better a few and not the entire ocean.