Summer in the City of Subdued Excitement

One thing I’m learning is that it sort of sucks to only be a seasonal employee – you’re at the bottom of the barrel, which means that when it comes to cutting hours, it’s probably a good bet that yours will be the first to go. I was originally at 22 hours this week, but now I’m down to about 13, and I’ve had hours cut every week since I started working there at the beginning of the month. Fortunately, my living expenses are pretty low, and I have a cushion built up from my school year job, so I’m not really in any trouble. But still, it does leave me with a little bit more free time than I would like, given my penchant for being super busy all the time.

On my days off, like today, I like to have my mornings to myself, perusing various blogs and news websites while I drink my cup of coffee and eat my toast. I’ll do my dishes, then take a shower, and then eat some lunch (unless I decide to get myself a bagel – there’s a really good bagel place downtown that my roommates and I like to go to). I also spend a lot of time at the coffee shop a couple doors down from the bagel place, where I either write or just sit and read (like I did today). Not only do the baristas there know my usual order, but now a couple of them are starting to know me by name. (One of my roommates tells me that means I’m there too much. I disagree.)

Last week I watched the 1996 adaptation of Emma, the one with Gwyneth Paltrow. I liked it, especially the proposal at the end. I’ve also been watching the 2007 “War and Peace” miniseries, which I’m almost finished with. (I’m halfway through the last episode.) I have the first disc of the first season of “Rome” out from the library, so I’ll be starting that next.

I’m actually a little bored. My life right now is a lot lazier than I’m used to. It’s nice not having to worry about homework when I get home from working a six hour shift, but on my days off I sort of wish I was taking classes.

I’m thinking I might try cooking. I’ve been surviving for the most part on eggs, yogurt, Easy Mac, peanut butter sandwiches, and popcorn so far this summer, and I haven’t really felt adventurous enough to try anything more advanced than that. Let’s be honest: I can’t even bake chocolate chip cookies properly. Last time my sister and I attempted those, they wound up being hockey pucks. So this little experiment should be an adventure…=)

The "Spark": the importance of connecting with characters

I’ve made my way through a few books this summer, and I haven’t really felt very strongly about any of them – at least not until this past week, when I read Alison Weir’s The Lady in the Tower and Audrey Niffenegger’s Her Fearful Symmetry. (Both of these will be reviewed in the next few days, so I’ll go into more detail about both of them.)

The thing these two books had in common was that I felt a strong connection to their characters, something I hadn’t really felt with any of the other books I’d read so far this summer. Granted, Weir’s book is a work of non-fiction, but I still need to feel connected to the person(s) I’m reading about in order to really get the most out of the book. For instance, Weir presented Anne Boleyn as a very compelling figure, one with the complexities one would expect of a real person. Boleyn wasn’t presented as a one-sided figure or a caricature; she came to life on the page – this, more than Weir’s scholarship, however excellent it is, was what made me want to keep reading.

Same with Her Fearful Symmetry, a work of fiction. It started off slow, but I was curious about the characters, so I kept reading. As the story progressed, I found myself drawn in more and more, becoming invested in certain characters. I found myself growing frustrated with their mistakes, wanting to reach into their fictional existence and shake some sense into them. Were they silly, silly beings? Yes. But I cared enough to be frustrated; I wasn’t merely apathetic like with most of the other books I’ve read so far this summer.

It doesn’t matter what genre your book is, or even if it’s fiction or non-fiction, if you’re reconstructing things from documents and eyewitness accounts or if you’re constructing something completely new from your imagination. It’s important that the reader feels that connection with the characters – otherwise, what good reason is there to go on?