Sunday, July 27, 2014

Review: Now I See You: A Memoir by Nicole C. Kear

Dear Lit Loves,

Well, I'm still in the holding booth in terms of acquiring a literary agent; but, I'm making friends with editors at the big six publishers that buy memoirs like those I write.  In the meantime, I'm getting on with my summer reading.  This week's choice was Now I See You:  A Memoir by Nicole C. Kear.  First, let me say, I picked up this memoir because it's about a woman who chronicles how her life is affected by the degenerative eye disease, retinitis pigmentosa.  You know I'm interested because I've lived since age sixteen with Uveitis.  And around age twenty-eight, I started to develop Uveitic Glaucoma along with a whole host of other weird, rare, and high unusual issues.

First, let me say, though the author comes across with a strong voice in this book, it's not one I found informative or enhancing to what she's trying to communicate.  She chooses outright flippant humor as the primary voice in this memoir.  Sometimes I was just generally put off by the language she used in the memoir; you don't have to be vulgar and categorically gross to engage readers in a good memoir.  The author discovers at an early age that she has retinitis pigmentosa which basically will rob her of her eyesight in what her specialist tells her will be ten years.  At this point in time, there is no effective treatment for RP.  The route the author takes is not one of pro-activity.  She basically does what most typical nineteen year old individuals would do:  activate extreme denial.  And this leads to living in the moment by traveling places, having as many romances as possible, and living on the edge.  I do support the author not tolerating lackadaisical bedside manners on the part of specialists; one specialist basically blows her off following diagnosis and the other specialist becomes highly judgmental.  I have zero tolerance for either of these behaviors in my medical experts.

Eventually, this book explores what the author's life is like once she becomes a mom and has an eye condition that she keeps hidden from virtually everyone except her immediate family and her husband.  When you're losing your eyesight, the usual first part to go is your night vision and your peripheral vision.  Eventually, the author has a humorous time attempting to keep up with a four year old and one year old when her window of vision is getting smaller and smaller.  She runs into fire hydrants, dogs, and theatrical props.  I think the biggest shock for me as a person also having a disease that will take my eyesight is that the author didn't take a more proactive stance when it comes to finding a university research specialist to treat her disease earlier in her life.  It's not until the last third of the book that she readily admits to the state of New York that she needs serious help for the visually impaired.  Also, she was rather late to the support group meetings.  And what kind of relationship transpired between the mom she finally meets who also has the same eye disease?  There was no exploration of that friendship than their initial meeting. 

In the end, the author makes a decision that she says is one of the first she made without fear.  I have to say, I don't think that just because I chose not to have kids means I'm making decisions out of fear.  My priorities are far different than this author.  My life does not revolve around being a mom.  Don't get me wrong, I love teaching middle and high school students.  I've saved myself a great deal of stress, worry, and anxiety by having the assurance that I am the only person afflicted with my ailments and my happiness is totally up to me.  True, part of the reason I chose not to have kids is because I don't want to pass on Uveitis, Uveitic Glaucoma, Meniere's disease, etc., but that doesn't make me a person making decisions due to fear.  That makes me a woman, patient, and writer that makes decision because she knows herself well and how best to achieve personal happiness.  My memoir (that will hopefully be published) will show how I chose a different road than this author and still achieved effective treatment for my eye disease and personal fulfillment.  Can't well to tell the world how I did it.

Up next is Jujitsu Rabbi and the Godless Blonde by Rebecca Dana.  The title is intriguing enough and I'll let you know soon enough what I think about the book's narrative.


Monday, July 21, 2014

Publishing Update and Review of Poser: My Life in 23 Yoga Poses by Claire Dederer

Dear Lit Loves,

Oh wow.  What a three weeks it has been since I last wrote!  Currently, several literary agents have my book proposal and manuscript for the memoir I wrote about life adventures with a balance or vestibular disorder.  I started my next manuscript about climbing the staircases of heaven with a close friend during her bout with a terminal illness.  And special thanks to all the individuals who signed up to follow my blog!  I had a friend ask me recently why in the world it matters how many blog followers you have when it comes to writing and publishing a good book.  It's insane, I know.  No one had to go to these extraordinary lengths fifteen years ago, but social media is such a big deal to the publishing community.  Fortunately, my publishing friend who is an executive vice president at a major publishing house keeps sending me emails to swing for the fences or I might have developed several stomach ulcers by now! 

In the meantime I decided to read Poser:  My Life in 23 Yoga Poses by Claire Dederer.  I'm not a yoga person.  I'm a get on the treadmill and interval train person.  Or better, get on a bike and go enjoy the outside world.   I always thought yoga was just a warm up exercise for the nitty gritty stuff of real exercising.   In Ms. Dederer's case I think she utilized yoga intentionally or unintentionally as a means of facing issues she had long been avoiding and also t how to learn how to remain in the present moment without running from it in a panic.  The author grew up in a rather radical home.  Her parents separated when she was very young, but they never got around to divorcing.  It was the 70s and her mom just took off with the kids and basically decided to take up the cause of feminist liberation by leaving her husband and building a life with a much younger boyfriend.  And the weird thing about the whole situation is that no one ever really addressed the fact that her mom and dad stayed married, had get togethers, and generally kept up a relatively decent family life despite not getting divorced.  Even when the author is in her thirties and has her first child, her parents still have not officially divorced and her mom is still with the hippie boyfriend.  Wow.  Talk about living in denial. 

 The interesting issue for Ms. Dederer is that she has grown up learning how to pretend everything is perfect when in fact the crap is hitting the fan.  She lives in Seattle with quite a few liberal parents that believe in organic diapers, organic produce, and some kind of interesting school that's called a co-op which to me sounded like a Montessori school.  She becomes overly concerned with raising her child perfectly according to the standards of others.  Therein lies the problem.  Additionally, her husband is a freelance writer who has a tendency toward depression when it comes to financially taking care of his family because he is in a profession that doesn't pay well and is also real short on job security.  The author is also a freelance writer.  The more devastating problem comes when neither the author nor the husband directly addresses their issue; they just go on pretending everything is okay.    Ms. Dederer takes up yoga because she believes it is a way of becoming a good or more perfect mother, but what is really happening is that she's looking for a way of escaping her reality.  Here's the funny thing:  Yoga forces you to live in the moment and "feel"reality.  And that's exactly what happens.  Not surprisingly, the author takes up more and more challenging forms of yoga. 

Eventually, life in Seattle gets entirely too overwhelming.  The couple moves with their two kids to Colorado.  They rent a house, the husband takes up a fellowship post at the local university and Ms. Dederer begins to enjoy life.  She starts hiking and spending time at a Buddhist university.  She
even takes up hiking and doing yoga with one of the leading gurus.  Her relationship with her husband becomes more fulfilling.  Her kids go to public school.  She becomes a book reviewer and the family decides to stay on another year in Colorado.  Eventually, what Ms. Dederer learns is how to be mindful of her present circumstances in all their imperfectness and not try make everything appear perfect.  There is no perfect.  We're all just stumbling along trying to find our way.  Yoga is what forces Ms. Dederer to let go of the living perfectly concept and go with the flow.  It's not about the perfect pose for the longest amount of time.  It's about knowing yourself, realizing your imperfections, and not running from your circumstances like your hair's on fire.  And what does she eventually do?  She realizes she just needs some space between she and her parents.  She can find contentment and fulfillment even during the most absurd moments in life.  Interestingly, it's almost like she has to run away from her former life in order to get to this life truth.  Life is messy people.  You've got to remain focused on your happiness and well-being regardless of what insane decisions other people and the rest of the world are making.  And for heaven's sake, at the end of the book I just wanted to shake the author and say, "Keep the yoga girlfriend!  Forget Perfect!  Embrace the messiness of life!  That's the only way to keep your head above water, you know?!"

Okay lit loves, I am off to read Now I See You by Nicole Kear.  I'm also about to read Jujitsu Rabbi and the Godless Blonde by Rebecca Dana which just the title intrigues me.  Till next time!

Monday, July 7, 2014

Review: Where'd You Go, Bernadette?! by Maria Semple

Dear Lit Loves,

So for some odd reason a huge number of people that I've come across lately were all hysterically jumping up and down about the book entitled Where'd You Go, Bernadette?!   And maybe if you like your books on the satirical side, this might be the book for you.  Honestly though, people know I live and breathe memoir so I HAVE NO IDEA why they recommended this book to me.  Maybe I just wanted to see what all the fuss is about?  To clarify, I never read memoir by famous people.  I like the memoirs by real people with real lives and real problems thank you very much.

Basically this novel follows a family where the dad is a scientific genius and the mom is a one-time brilliant architect who won a MacArthur award.  After something terrible happens in relation to the mom and the dad has Microsoft buy his company, the couple move to Seattle.  They buy a home that used to be a home for abandoned or runaway girls which is in complete disrepair.  They have a daughter that they send to a private academy.  And the mom basically checks out of her life.  No, seriously, she doesn't repair the home; she rarely goes outside the house; she appears to hate people or maybe just the people in Seattle (I couldn't totally tell).  The dad appears to be working 24/7 at Microsoft and loving the Seattle tree-hugging environment.  Eventually, the dad discovers just how wayward and lost his wife has become and let me tell you it's because she's an artist and she has stopped creating.  That's what this whole book is about:  Do not check out of life if you are in an artistic field!  The dad tries to have the mom committed.  Meanwhile, the daughter Bee appears to be a well-adjusted thriving middle schooler even though her parents have little if any contact with the school she attends or the community.  The mom, Bernadette, goes missing.  The remainder of the book involves the dad and daughter trying to piece together what in the world happened to Bernadette.  And let me tell you, there were so many points of view in this book I almost couldn't keep up with them.  The story is told through emails, notes, and transcriptions of phone calls.  Which brings me to the one part that really bugged me:  I wrote a manuscript in diary form and had a literary agent just shred it due to the "lack" of structured chapters.  Well, I can tell you, this book is not organized into chapters; it's barely put together in parts. 

At times I felt sorry for Bernadette because of what happened to her before she left California.   At the same time, she brought A LOT of the insane stuff that happens to her on herself.  I mean, who the heckfire is so lackadaisical that they never cook, only order takeout, and then instead of washing the dishes, just throws them in nearby bureau drawers?!  And how do you buy a ginormous home, leave it in complete disrepair, borderline condemnable?  And you call yourself an architect by trade?!  And honestly, I thought Bernadette should have stayed at the port where her daughter eventually finds her especially if she was just going to barely exist in life and not grab life by the horns and ride that bull until it screams Uncle baby! 

But you know me, I'm never at a loss for an opinion.  I do memoir so naturally this book didn't grip me and make me think about the larger issues in life so I'm not going to be gung-ho about recommending this book; however, if you like and thrive on reading about wealthy folks who definitely need to grow up and get a real life, then this book might be for you.  I'm off to read true
memoir in the form of Poser:  My Life in 23 Yoga Poses and Now I See You.  Will be back shortly lit lovies!