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Reading With Sea

A book club on your own time

Category Archives: Blogging

Reading can be exhausting and on this Monday afternoon when the sky is actually blue in Seattle (rare) I am fighting the urge to take a nap.  I should be putting on my running shoes and hitting the pavement.  I am on page 165 of The Savage Detectives, page 48 of Franny and Zooey, which doesn’t count since I have read it up-teem times, page 160 of Tokyo Vice.  I keep starring at a postcard of Joan Didion and John Dunne.  This photo was taken in 1983 the year I was born and I am wondering who is the Joan Didion of my generation? Dreaming of being back in New York.  I miss my second home.  June: come quickly.

Ok, I cannot put off exercise any longer.

Read on,
Sea

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Corinne Hofman is not a writer, but as far as storytelling goes – she has nailed it.

About three years ago now I read a book by Corinne Hofmann entitled, The White Masia. As the story begins Corinne, originally hailing from Switzerland or Germany heads with her  boyfriend to Kenya for vacation.  While on vacation she spots a Masai warrior who she instantly falls in love with while internally remarking that this warrior is the most beautiful person she has ever seen.  She makes her mind up to try and be with him.  At the end of the vacation she breaks it off with her boyfriend, heads back to her homeland, dissolves her business there, settles her affairs, and makes the preparations to return back to Kenya in hopes of finding the Masai warrior.  She goes through a lot, A LOT, trying to find him and while I am choosing not to divulge any more detail because I do not want to give the story away, it is an incredible story.  It is entertaining to say the least and I remember that when I read this book it only took me a day.

Fourteen years after the first book, Hofmann wrote a sequel called Reunion in Barsaloi, which I am currently reading.  Apparently, she also wrote a third book about her story which I intend to read when I am through with the sequel.  Hopefully, I will have the chance to finish it this evening.  If anyone is interested in reading a story full of adventure that is completely out of the ordinary read The White Masai.  Hofmann, as I said, is not the most eloquent writer, but she has definitely assumed the rank of a writer in her ability to keep a plot and push it along at a rate that keeps the readings’ fingers inching to turn the next page and the next and the next.

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Have you found what you are looking for … this month at least?  Have you discovered a read that has met your taste buds with satisfaction?  I am still reading The Savage Detectives and I am enjoying it.  It is really different than anything else I have read, but it was not originally written in English and I am having a hard time deciphering what is due to the translator and what to pin to the author.  Either way, it’s been a fun read so far.  Tonight: red wine, candle light, Otis Redding and more Roberto Bolano.

Cheers,

Sea

Member or not, writer or wannabe, if you want to write let me know.  I have mentioned an openness to have guest writers, here, and I did mean it.  Amatuer or professional, member profile or none, lurker or otherwise, let me know if you want to write something on the site.

Also, a lot of people have contacted me about writing letters, since I mentioned enjoying writing letters in some post, at some point in the past.  If you want to write letters, be my guest.  Find one another and if it feels safe, exchange information and become pen pals.  I would encourage that.  In fact, I am presently.  There is nothing like receiving a hand written note in the mail.  Please just make sure you do not post your address online, please exchange that information by private email.  After years of being a probation officer, I have a few precautions, even though I am retired from that line of career.

-Sea

seabenjamin@gmail.com

March becomes April.

The turning is complete and we find ourselves in April.  The Book Discussion page is updated.  At the request of members, I have kept the discussion questions from previous month’s selections on the page and people are welcome to continue their conversations.  Please continue to mark clearly which book you are referring to when posting.

A few of you have offered suggestions on restructuring the book discussion, which included having questions that allow for discussion while reading, rather than needing to finish the book before being able to answer questions.  As a response to this request, I have posted very generic book discussion questions for The Savage Detectives and Tokyo Vice.  These questions refer to subjects such as content, tone, character development, etc.  I used the questions posted on the author’s page for The Help.

I will not be reading The Help and I wanted to announce that I will leave the discussion on this book to those of you who are actually going to read it for April.  Personally, I am in the mood for more seedy, dark, sarcastic, sharp, rough, and raw sort of reads so I am going to stick with the other two selections to begin with as they seem like they may fit into my current appetite.    On that note, I will be updating the Sea’s Reads page soon as I know that some of you do actually want to know what I am buying, reading, loving, rejecting and so on.  Also, at the request of members, I will be writing more about the books I am reading and what I think of them.  On this note, I wanted to write a short disclosure, first:

I allow myself to get swept away with what I read whether that means being in love or full of disappointment, so as a forewarning, my comments will be gushy and sometimes flirtatious despite leaning on one side or the other.  I enjoy sinking into what I am reading.  I am stating this clearly, here and now, so that it does not surprise you.  Whether I am writing about an ex-dominatrix I admire, a female pastor that stretches my intelligence, a philosopher who often opens my mind, a poet who tickles and pleases, or a novelist who phrases something just right I will gush about what I like and gush about what I do not like.  The first to these posts, was written a few days ago about Whip Smart by Melissa Febos, which you can read here.

Also, I will be writing about books that I read, some of which are written by people that I know.  In the first month, September of 2008, in Nick Horby’s first collection of essays he wrote for the magazine, The Believer, entitled, The Polysyllabic Spree, he lays out some ground rules for his entries: “I don’t want anyone pointing out that certain books I write about in this column are by friends – or, in the case of Pompeii, by brothers-in-law.  A lot of my friends are writers, and so some of my reading time is, inevitably, spent on their books.  I won’t attempt to disguise the connections, if that makes anyone feel better.”  I echo Hornby’s statement.  I am confident in what I like enough to know that the reasons fall outside of who the author is.  Seriously.  I promise.

When my friend, Isaac Marion, years ago, wrote a short story about zombies, I read it.  Immediately, I asked him: “what did you even write this?”  I have always enjoyed Isaac’s stories, but his zombie feature was not something I appreciated.  I do not have a taste for vampire or zombie stories.  Never have.  Years later, after he wrote that short story, he turned it into a full length novel and now that novel has been picked up by an agent and a publisher, talked about by bloggers and reviewers and optioned in Hollywood.  This is my example.  Isaac’s zombie story is his most popular writing yet, but my least favorite.  Despite my understanding of what he was doing with this idea and what he was saying through the story and though I have absolute support for Isaac, I do not like something just because I support the author.  Just like I do not enjoy The Flaming Lips’ newest album simply because I think they are brilliant musicians.

Stay tuned. And feel free to email me.

seabenjamin@gmail.com

-Sea

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Hi. Hello.

I need to tell you all something; I need to come clean.

Questions posing conversations based on thoughts around owning vs. borrowing, keeping vs. giving away, what snacks you prefer to accompany your reading, etc., are of minor interest to me.  The above are surface conversational topics and throughout this current month I planted them on our site as a test.  I wanted to understand what would draw more traffic and discussion.  The express purpose that prompted this reading group was to facilitate discussion over mutual reading.  At the plea of several people, over the span of a couple of years, I finally decided to put together this group in order to collect fellow readers.  Not being a big blog reader, I had no idea what I was getting myself into, so now, after a few months, I need to readjust.  My intention and hope is that this group will flourish into a space where individuals can enter as their schedule permits and thoroughly discuss their reads, for good or bad.

In realizing that people need to connect in order to be inspired to return and participate, I am trying to write quick pieces, here and there, that draw interest, while relaying what I am, personally (outside of the group selections) reading. I am wondering, will this be enough for you, or do you need those light-hearted postings to connect with.  And yes, I am going to continue using the word connect, because it is essential to my purpose.

I want to give space for you to connect, but I need to admit that I do not think I have the stamina for daily posts on things like, whether anyone keeps the dust jackets on the books they are reading or if you can watch television and read at the same time or do you take breaks when you read?  Such topics are featured on just about every other book related site I have come across and while these may be easy to respond to, I prefer more depth.  I want to clarify – I am not, in any way, saying that these are bad questions or that they are not worth your attention, but rather that this is meant to be a reading group and not necessarily just a book related blog.

I am not a blogger.  I am much more accustomed to small groups, lingering moments and good conversation.  This is just me, personally.  I do not want to discount any other method, I merely wish to focus a little more specifically to actual reading discussion.

I would like to hear your voice on what I have expressed.  Here is what I am thinking in broken-down form:

My personal passion lives in discussion that is rich, full of various points of view and goes in-depth over what I am reading. This is what I would like to focus on with our site.  What I am wondering is how would you like this?  Would taking away the lighter questions of what you enjoy eating and drinking when you read take away from your experience?  The moment I publicly published this site, it became not only mine, but more yours.

Please feel free to express any and all thoughts along these lines.  I do not want to chase anyone away or infer that these lighter questions are not good enough, but I have never been one that has any talent or as I said before, stamina, for small talk.  This does not mean that small talk doesn’t have its place, just that I am not good at it.

Let me know your thoughts.

-Sea

No, not Liz Phair, but Melissa Febos’ Whip Smart.

“Do I want to have smooth or my current state of unshaved legs?”, I asked myself internally.  I was reflecting on how I wanted to look when I jumped into bed with Melissa Febos (or her recently released memoir, Whip Smart, that is). I was thankful that the experience of listening to an ex-professional dominatrix caused me to reflect on my own… let’s just say issues and driving forces and self-understanding.  Let me note here, that I have always believed that being aware of our desires intellectually, sensually, sexually are each of equal importance.  In any case,  I wasn’t planning on purchasing a copy of her memoir the night of her reading, since I had far surpassed my pre-determined limit on reading material for the month of March, but when I returned home, I had more than a book with me.

I have been wanting to write about Melissa Febos since I returned home from her reading, at the Elliot Bay Book Company, this past Saturday night.  I am one of those readers who breathe in what I am consuming and allow it to stir what it may in me.  My ability to open myself to influence, allow it to resonate and then filter out what I don’t want to possess or be possessed by made this book a difficult read to begin.  It was intimating to enter this story; knowing nothing of the world you are entering creates a wide spread tantalizing tension. I am not entirely comfortable in predicaments of minimal understanding.  I was apprehensive and expectant and the anticipation was thrilling.  No matter the thoughts spinning and teeming inside my head, I could not help but read it.

I remained curled under the blankets for hours with only a small lamp for light.  Each night that unfolds into early morning finding me under covers infatuated with a read leaves me feeling like I am with a secret lover.  I felt giddy.  I felt ache.  I felt heartache, sadness, strength, determination and a human connection that I am sure runs along the most raw, existential line.  This is a short list of what I felt and am still feeling even now, after finishing.

We have a mixed readership here, at Reading With Sea, so I will not go into every explicit detail, but basically, Melissa Febos worked as a professional dominatrix while earning a MFA from Sarah Lawrence University, somehow maintaining a 4.0 GPA and living in a state of addiction to Heroin.

Now, I have worked with a population of addicts of all kinds for years now and I cannot recall one person who was able to simply maintain a part-time job while using Heroin.  How Melissa was able to walk away with a 4.0 GPA with so many other intense distractions is a mystery to me with the exception of understanding that she is a truly brilliant being.  She has this determination that is beyond the word determination.  This is incredibly rare. I am completely inspired by this woman.  Truly taken by her.  From the moment she stepped up to the platform and microphone I was captivated.

Critics have written that Melissa’s memoir is “titillating, seamy, honest, brave, provocative, curious, disturbing, funny, dark.”  All of these things are uniquely true of this story, in their own context, but Febos, as a writer, is more than these limiting descriptions.  She is expansive and limitless.  Though a fair amount of people grow up with the experience of having at least one person in their life tell them that they are capable of anything they put their mind to, Melissa Febos, actually is.  She does not live in the possibilities of life, but in the movement, the upheaval, the roar, the friction.  There is some privity that resides in Melissa Febos, that she may not fully understand, but I like the way she carries it around.

I can only lament the paucity of time I was able to observe and be near her, but I look forward to her future bodies of work.  Some times there are people that you feel instinctively drawn to.  My innate intuition flared and Melissa Febos does not disappoint, no matter how many layers exist in her daily existence.  After the experiences she had and the ones she wrote about, I hope she knows this simple fact: she does not disappoint, regardless of circumstance, it is just who she is.

-Sea

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