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Saturday, December 31, 2011

Res(v)olutions

I am going to forgo reviewing a book this posting. Instead, I thought I'd share a few thoughts with you for the New Year.

Over the years I have refrained from making what typically turns out to be by mid-January or early February "those" impossible-to-keep “major” New Year's resolutions, whatever they may be. Most of my friends start out the year by "resolving" to stop drinking; or to loose that extra ten or twenty pounds; to spend less and save more; to spend more time with the kids or the parents or the siblings...the list goes on and on. By the time Spring rolls around, their resolves have dwindled or disappeared altogether. Not wanting to fall into the failure category, I have even refrained from my "resolve" to write a New Year's posting about January First being yet another "do-over" chance for "new beginnings" and what I would strive to do differently this year than I did last year; this being my first full year of retirement from the corporate world and my first full one venturing into the still-working world of blogging, publishing, and creative writing.

I read in the Philadelphia Inquirer this morning about an online, Boston-based company tooting itself as a "social well-being company" that provides a free "small, easy-to-do" challenge to improve one's health and well-being. Each challenge is replete with an explanation of why one should accept and meet the challenge, besides the fact that they are supposedly "guaranteed" to be "fun". The site (www.dailychallenge.com) requires you to sign in each day and "accept and complete the challenge that is sent to you", and then share your "small" accomplishment(s) with friends via Facebook.

While this may appeal to those of us with less will-power or who lack a responsible sense of independence and have to rely on other people--so-called "friends", most of which we don't really know and have only met online and not face-to-face—for affirmation, it does not appeal in the least to me. I don't need someone to "report in" to via an online site to tell them that I took FrankieB for a longer walk today in the park or that I changed the batteries in my smoke detectors. And I certainly don't need to sign up to have a daily challenge sent to me from anyone in a trumped up “community” telling me what small activity I should add to my already full to-do list for any given day to make me healthier or feel better about myself, my friends, family, and companion pets. These people don't know me, my lifestyle, nor my wants, interests, tastes, needs or desires. In short, this is, to me, a lazy person's "out"; an easy path to avoid the much harder and much more rewarding path of using our own personal gifts of self-determination and self-responsibility. Besides, the word "challenge" implies a dare—“I  dare you to do it" and a nyah-nyah taunt coupled with an undercurrent sense of guilt if you don't "accept” and “report” it. 

For me, this year, I have decided not to make any "resolutions" nor seek out and accept any ersatz challenges put forth to me by strangers. Instead, I am opting to make a few "revolutions". Notice the only difference between the word resolution and revolution is one letter—without any "challenges"—but the meanings are vastly disparate. Resolution, according to my Oxford English Dictionary, is '"..an intention...a formulation; the act or instance of solving doubt or problem or question". Hence, when one makes a resolution the beginning of each year, one is trying to solve or rectify a problem. Revolution, on the other hand, is a turning around; a fundamental change or a revolving toward or away to or from another angle or viewpoint. One is not solving a problem, but looking at, perhaps even doing something in a different way. You could call it a "turning point". For me, I am going to resolve to try to revolve: to turn around and look at certain aspects of my life differently.

All this takes, I think, is to be more conscientious about what one is doing at any given moment. This is not at all "challenging", but should be an instinctual part of how we perceive, think, and act from moment to moment. Sure, we all have lapses; we are only human. It is because of these that books and poems are written, plays are enacted, and movies are produced—if nothing more than to highlight and show us our foibles, as well as our successes; to laugh and/or commiserate about them. To effect a revolving—a revolution—we don't need to log into our computer and get online to access what we should be doing. All we need to do is get into our own heads and use our own innate common sense. Do we need to turn around to make this better or different? If so, where and/or how do we need to turn?

So, with that mind, here is a short list of my own, unique, New Year's Revolutions for 2012:

Continue to extend our "FrankieB" walks to beyond just two blocks around the neighborhood for him to do his "stuff". He's still a young four-year old who enjoys being outside to catch wondrous scents, roll in the cool grass, and chase rabbits and squirrels. The whole point of the walks are for him anyway; it being his, a dog's life: sleep, sniff, eat, and poop. Besides, a brisk walk in the fresh air is healthy for me, as well. So, why not enjoy them together?

Spend more time at the local Library (www.ccls.org). I re-discovered it last Friday afternoon, after a four-year hiatus, stopping in to do a bit of research and to locate a newly published book that I heard about on NPR. Not only did they locate the book, but they had it on their shelves that were laden with just about every other book (including one of mine) that I could ever hope to read in one lifetime. With my newly self-imposed limited income, I can no longer afford to buy as many books, CDs, and DVDs that I used to. At the library, they all are free or can be rented for three weeks for a very modest fee. All I need to do is spend is the time, of which, when I am not writing or walking my hound, I have plenty. 

Not to flinch every time I step out of the shower and see my mother in the bathroom mirror. After all, it stands to reason that since I have her genes I should start to resemble her at some point—and I am quickly approaching that age. Enough said.

Devote at least three hours or so (or even more) a day writing—whether it be this blog (most postings take considerably more than three hours), one of my children's books and/or one of my novels. It takes a bit of self-prodding and will-power for me to actually sit down at my laptop and "get in the zone", but when I do, it's a profoundly rewarding experience. If I do this consistently, I should have my next set of animal adventures to you in the next month or so.

♥ Hit the courts a lot more often with my best tennis buddy, Betty—just as soon as winter passes and the first warm days of spring roll around.  

♥ Spend more time with my sister Peg and my brother-in-law, Dan.
 


Make it a point this year to try and visit with my long-lost and now found beloved friends from my childhood (thank you, Facebook!). This includes sharing laughter and old, as well as new times, over a scotch with "Velvet", my best friend from elementary and junior high school.  

Be a bit more kinder to my neighbors, more forgiving of my friends, and more loving with my family. After all, they are, most importantly, what life is really all about.

Life is an abundance of wonders, simple joys, and vast opportunities for all sorts of exciting experiences and amazing adventures. May we all revolve with health, happiness, harmony, and prosperity this year of 2012 toward them all. As the saying goes, "one good turn deserves another".

3:43 pm est          Comments

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

A Matter of Time

On a few of her more popular albums, Cher sings, "If I could turn back time..." If only we could.

There are some things in the past that I would like the opportunity to change, alter, redo, or just relive again. Wouldn't we all? And if we could go back in time and maybe change and/or correct the actions and/or mistakes of not only ourselves, but those of others...well, wouldn't that at least absolve us of long–held regrets or, if nothing else, be wildly interesting? Not to mention the mind-bending conundrum of having the ability to change the course of history. Once we returned to our present time, would things be changed for the better? Would we remember. Would we even know?

This is the premise of many books and movies written and produced in the last one hundred or so years, including the most popular novel about time travel by H.G. Wells, The Time Machine, of which any number of both theater and television movies have been made, not to mention the multiple variations1. A number of authors in all genres have espoused the theme—and all the myriad permutations thereof—of time travel , including Lynn Kurland (romantic fantasy), Dana Gabaldon (historical romance), Lloyd Alexander (children)2, and his latest venture into the uncanny and bizarre, Stephen King's 11/22/63: A Novel .
 
I am a devoted fan of King's and every year—at least for the last two or three—it seems that another of his thick, juicy tomes is published just in time to order to have on the first day of Christmas, providing a most enjoyable and diverting escapist read over the Holiday's remaining eleven days3. I ordered my copy just as the book came out in November and, as is the tradition here, stowed it in the hall closet until Christmas Morning. I need not tell you what I've been doing ever since then. Last year, I spend the first half of The Twelve Days reading his then newly-released Under the Dome: A Novel--a tour-de-force of both mind-numbing and grippingly horrifics—thinking that, surely, he couldn't top it. But in this, his latest release, he does. King never disappoints his readers. What he promises, he delivers.

In 11/22/63, the theme of time travel is remarkably strong and well-treated in both the main and three or four sub-plots. The major plot premise revolves around a school teacher in the year 2011 who is shown "the" portal in the pantry of a friend's diner that enables him to travel back in time (11:58 on the morning of Tuesday, September 9, 1958, to be precise)—his “mission” is to thwart the assassination of John Fitzgerald Kennedy by Lee Harvey Oswald, in our timeline, on the title date of the novel. While this event is sacrosanct in our history—anyone alive today who lived through it then can tell you now exactly where they were and what they were doing when they heard the news that JFK had been shot4—some readers might find the whole concept of King's latest an anathema.

However, the author does treat the subject with respect; but it is almost as if the event itself is not the primary focal point. King could have easily chosen the assassination of Abraham Lincoln (April 14, 1865) or William McKinley (September 2, 1901), or even that of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand (June 28, 1914) to promote his themes and theories of time travel and how it affects, changes, often completely altering or obliterating lives in both the past and present—which becomes one's knowable future when you're back in time. Of all the major murders of world leaders, that of JFK pulls our heart-stings the hardest and is, along with Lincoln’s, the most emotionally famous. The topic, to be honest, does sell books and has instantly led this one to the top of the New York Times Best Seller list. 

The tale, as I said, revolves around Jake Lepping, a.k.a Geroge Amberson, whom we meet in the first few pages and continue with through the better first half of 11/22/63, not with his plans and attempts to stop Oswald, but with his experiences, escapades, and choices that test his ideas of time travel and how he could change the future that is, what was, and could well might be again, his present. It is not until the second half of the book that we finally actually meet Oswald. And what was so far an already fast-paced read, becomes a madly swirling, dashing race to the polished ending...

King is well-known for his graphic guts-and-glory writing, with much, if not most, of his horrific historical fiction passing the point of almost sadistic sensationalism. But here, he is toned down to the point where sensationalism does not detract from the story, as it has often in a few of his earlier novels, but adds to its complexities. There is, of course, the fateful love interest, with its dark, almost black undertone back-stories; the bold, stark reality of a man dying of lung cancer; the usual descriptive killings; the evocative and illustrative character interactions and personal relationships—all twisted up and woven through the story with small to medium hooks, sub-plots, and themes that persist through King's telling of the tale.


Some of these twists and turns throughout this novel are, however, a bit confusing, but King leads you along almost by hand, sprinkling the content with timeless, and sometimes priceless, aphorisms: "The past is obdurate—it doesn’t want to be changed." "Dancing is life." "Life and time turn on a dime". These soon also become major and minor themes, along with that of loves ventured, gained and lost—and gained again. Not to mention King's signature persistent theme that nothing—even the minutest detail—that happens in any of his novels is coincidental. Everything happens for a reason—neatly sewn up in the grippingly emotional questions: Will Lepping/Amberson succeed in his mission? Will Oswald be thwarted? Does, in this tale, John Fitzgerald Kennedy live on? And, more importantly, if our hero does succeed, how does King perceive the change in our history and in our lives today?


The methodology of King ties all of this together; a prime example of his mastery of his craft and, dare I say, art. I have read most of his works, beginning with The Tommyknockers , Misery , The Dark Tower Series, through Under the Dome: A Novel and on, to this, the latest of his prolific career, which I consider (almost) the best of the lot. King just keeps on getting better and better—pure fantastic cannot-out-it-down horror bordering on the upside of good literature.


I highly recommend 11/22/63. It is an essential King read that is well worth your time. 
~~~~~~
1Here's a link to the listings on IMBD: The Time Machine. Both 2010 movies, as well as the classic 1978 version starring Rod Taylor as H. G. Wells and Yvette Mimieux as Weena, are available on DVD via Netflix .
2 Alexander is a local Pennsylvania author, with an impressive catalog of wonderful books for children (of all ages). I received his Time Cat: The Remarkable Journeys of Jason and Gareth for Christmas this year, and being a cat as well as a Basset Hound lover, am finding it delightful and intriguing.  
3 The Christian tradition is that Christmas begins on December 25th and lasts for twelve days, until January 8th, The Feast of the Epiphany when the arrival of The Magi with their gifts for the Holy Family is celebrated. Here's a link to what each of the Twelve Days signify in the popular "The Twelve Days of Christmas" carol: http://www.crivoice.org/cy12days.html.
4 I was just coming from Chemisty Lab, on my way to last period band pratice for the upcoming Christmas Concert, when the announcement came over the loud speaker that all students were to report to the auditorium. It was there that our principal told us en masse what had occurred in Dallas’ Daeley Plaza earlier that day. I'll never forget the thunderous unanimous burst of sobs and tears when we heard the news that our President was dead. I am sure you all have the same type of indeliable memories.

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June J. McInerney, the host of this Literary Blog, is an author, poet, and librettist. Her currenty published works include a novel, a book of spiritual inspirations, two volumes of poetry, stories for children (of all ages) and a variety of children's musicals. Her titles include:

the Schuylkill Monster: A Novel of Phoenixville in 1978
The Prisoner's Portrait: A Novel of Phoenxville during World War II
Forty-Thirty 
Rainbow in the Sky
Meditations for New Members

Adventures of Oreigh Ogglefont
The Basset Chronicles.
Cats of Nine Tales
Spinach Water: A Collection of Poems
Exodus Ending: A Collection of More Spiritual Poems

We Three Kings

Beauty and the Beast

Bethlehem

Noah's Rainbow

Peter, Wolf, and Red Riding Hood

 

 

Originally from the New York metropolitan area, June currently lives near Valley Forge Park in Pennsylvania with her constant and loving companions, FrankieBernard and Sebastian Cat. She is currently working on her fourth novel.

June's novels can be purchased at amazon.com, through Barnes and Noble,
at the Historical Society of the Phoenixville Area,
and 
the Gateway Pharmacy in Phoenixvile, PA
.

For more information about her musicals, which are also available on amazon.com,