#1: silence

on a late june evening, the seven of us were lying on the pier with our legs dangling over the edge. i was at the end of the row, and as we giggled and squirmed i wondered if i’d fall into the lake. when i stretched them far enough my toes could skim the surface of the water. the lake mirrored the sky’s brilliant blue-gold fire, and the hills across from us were outlined in pink. for a few precious minutes silence descended upon our group. that brief moment seemed to expand to infinity; the entire universe was before us, deep and contemplative and enormous, and it gleamed with the sun’s last light.

the year of magical thinking | a book review

from my bookstagram

from my bookstagram

last year i made a belated new year’s resolution to talk more about the things i read instead of simply rating them out of five stars. i’ve learned since then that it’s much easier for me to accomplish something if i don’t ~officially~ commit to it first – i know that sounds counter-intuitive, but that’s apparently how productivity works for me. for example, i decided to read 66 books last year on goodreads and failed, whereas this year i lowered the bar to 36 books, and i’ve already finished six even though we’re only halfway through january (!!!). hence, no real ‘2017 new year’s resolutions’ post from me this time.

2017 is the year i want to read more nonfiction – both books and essays – and poetry. i’ve had a surprisingly good time with nonfiction in the past. one book that’s influenced me the most is peter ostwald’s biography of glenn gould, which i read two years ago. last summer i read joan didion’s slouching towards bethlehem, “how to build a universe that doesn’t fall apart two days later” by philip k. dick, and marjane satrapi’s persepolis, which were all amazing reads. i want to continue this trend and learn more about everything – politics and race and food and music and finance and botany and more.

the year of magical thinking was the first book i read this year. i don’t know much about joan didion’s background besides what i’ve learned from STB and this novel, but her writing is as clear and detailed as ever. she guides you through her year of magical thinking after her husband dies, and her language indicates that: allusions to poetry and myths, her unwillingness to donate her husband’s shoes (because then he wouldn’t be able to wear them if he returned), the vortex in her memories that always leads her back to her living husband and healthy child.

didion’s certainly privileged. you can feel it through the places she’s been and the people she knows, but as much as that might disconnect the reader (as it disconnected me, at first), she doesn’t rub it in your face. she’s relating her personal experience with grief, and if her closest friends and clearest memories happen to be celebrities and glitzy cities, she only mentions it as context before focusing on the topic at hand: grief, or mourning, or the warning signs she thinks she should have heeded before december 30, 2003.

when i read TYOMT i was reminded of bluets by maggie nelson. didion does with grief what nelson failed to do with the color blue. while i thought nelson’s writing was lovely, it seemed to lack something – coherence or resolution, i still can’t say. when i finished bluets i felt as though the author hadn’t really written the book, that there was another version of bluets that hadn’t been published yet (but would be, eventually), and this version was just an outline. nelson drops facts about the color blue, litters her segments with allusions and beautifully-styled sentences, but ultimately goes back to a topic (her love life?) that isn’t really about the color at all.

on the other hand, didion picks apart the concepts of grief and mourning and death, and she doesn’t skim over topics the way nelson does. she explains medical terms that doctors tell her about her daughter, quintana. she returns repeatedly to the night john gregory dunne slumps over dinner, a movement so sudden that didion first registers it as a joke. (you sit down to dinner and life as you know it ends.) she studies the literature of grief, not just the novels and the poetry and the rituals, but also the medical papers and the psych studies and the etiquette handbooks, how society currently encourages hiding sorrow as something shameful and perceives grief as a form of self-pity.

the documentation in TYOMT is unbelievable. how many notebooks did didion keep? she and dunne seem to have made records of nearly everything – planners, notebooks, marginalia, kitchen books, microsoft word documents, a box with lines three-year-old quintana had said. it frightens me. when will i experience that grief? i can anticipate it, i can imagine it, but how broken will i be when it finally happens to me? have i written enough to leave a record of whoever has left? have i recorded enough of my life, shared with theirs, to somehow resurrect them?

this is a wonderful read, objectively, but it becomes a necessary one when you have experienced devastating loss yourself. simply reading TYOMT made me feel an overwhelming sadness – i tend to empathize, maybe overly so, with whatever i’m reading. however, i think my timing was off with TYOMT. i loved it, but i didn’t need it. i haven’t yet experienced the death of a loved one. this book offers the most to those who are in the process of grieving, offering not closure (“i realize as i write this that i do not want to finish this account,” didion says) but an exploration of an experience the bereaved alone feel.

4.8/5 stars. you should definitely read TYOMT when you get the chance (and listen to this song). if you have read it, what are your thoughts?

 

 

four moments

happy new year everyone! today is CITRUSY’s fourth birthday. to celebrate, here are four moments from 2016:

  1. i’m sitting on the plane in the seat next to the window seat. we are landing in massachusetts. in the window, white doll houses neatly line the impossibly blue water. i’m one verse away from crying as i read alice oswald’s memorial. on paper, men turn into metal and fall into the sea, voices permanently swallowed by war. beside me, the woman in the window seat is reading her own book. i’ll see her again in the airport bathroom half an hour later, then no more.
  1. “it was one of those headlines that was like, ‘US to colonize mars by 2020’ or something like that,” a young man says as he walks alone, talking wirelessly to someone on the phone. it is late into the evening, nearly nine o’clock. the sky fades fast from pink and blue to dark purple, and dusk falls in a veil of darkness over the street. heat radiates gently from the pavement.
  1. down at the wharf, everything is green and blue. a couple of girls lay in the grass, sleeping, while a man with his dog jogs by the water. i’m taking a photo of boats at the dock and texting it to my father, who loves anything ocean-related but couldn’t come here with us. a boy stands a few feet away, facing my direction. he has long limbs and light hair, and his hands cradle a huge camera lens. he points and shoots. i hear the shutter click as I turn and head back to where my mother is waiting for me.
  1. he’s soft and shapely, all soft smiles and soft eyes and soft voice, as if to mask the sharp intellect hidden between his teeth and tucked somewhere in his ribs. too soft for anyone to suspect – too kind, too loveable. his lips are always slightly upturned, ready to lift into a dopey smile when he sees you. his wit: cleverly quick but never scathing. when he laughs he keeps his mouth shut and lets his breath tremble instead. he is one of the people i admire most.

nath

sometimes i am overwhelmed by
how wonderful you are and how
lucky i am to be your friend. it
is hard to pinpoint my favorite
thing about you – i love everything
your laugh your words your passion
your ability to make me feel
we are the only people in the world
existing noisily as i float deeply in love,
words caught in my throat.
bittersweetness nips lightly at our
mouths. when you smile something
warm flutters inside me like a tiny bird.
maybe one day we’ll visit sweden
to talar svenska but for now i’m
glad we’ve gone to coffeehouse
inks lake and the blanton together,
and if a flower bloomed every time i
was happily reminded of you a meadow
would flood all the halls and classrooms at
LASA: petals tumbling out of windows,
buzzing bees washed gold beneath the sun.

oddloop

she opened her mouth to scream.
only flowers came out,
blossoming from her throat

(more…)

bookish thoughts

one of my new year’s resolutions is to express my reactions to the things i’ve read – whether it be through writing reviews on goodreads, verbally recommending books to others, or posting thoughts on this blog – since i’ve never been that great at pinpointing exactly what i liked or disliked about a book. so, two months into 2016, i’m making good on that promise!

last month i read vladimir nabokov’s pnin and loved it. i want to read it again before i give a full review, but in the meantime, i’m going to share my impressions (and show that this blog is still alive and well, haha).

“Pnin slowly walked under the solemn pines. The sky was dying. He did not believe in an autocratic God. He did believe, dimly, in a democracy of ghosts. The souls of the dead, perhaps, formed committees, and these, in continuous session, attended to the destinies of the quick.”

pnin feels more like a string of anecdotes rather than one continuous narrative, and follows a russian academic’s life at an american university. the whimsical diction and lengthy sentences are enchanting, and the story itself is full of ghosts. pnin’s personal history constantly haunts him throughout the novel; he’s followed by hundreds of people who move in and out of a lifetime of moments. the physical structures that exist within pnin are incredibly tangible, too. i watched pnin trying to create his home at waindell college or exploring the pines and felt as though i were the one filling my living space with russian memorabilia and carefully weaving through the ancient, beautiful vestiges within cook’s castle. for me, reading pnin was an immersive (and surprisingly relatable) experience – cruel, hilarious, warm, and nostalgic all at once.

also! here are some books on my ‘to read/finish’ list for march:

the castle, franz kafka – i began reading this last year and have somehow never finished it. i share an on-and-off relationship with this book; i’ve read it in little chunks of narrative since i first started it. k., the protagonist, tries to gain entry into a castle in which mysterious authority figures govern the village below. i want to finish this eventually, but if i remember correctly, k. was still circling hopelessly around the village where i left off last.

fight club, chuck palahniuk – currently reading. it’s been gut-wrenching and atavistic and violent so far, but also brilliantly technical when it comes to minute details. i’m really enjoying it right now, and i hope i can finish this soon!!

the little friend, donna tartt – i’m starting this today! after reading tartt’s the secret history (which i absolutely adored) last summer, i’m super excited to read the little friend, which is set in the american south in the 1970s. right now i’m also reading flannery o’conner’s wise blood for school, so i’m on the lookout for cultural and/or thematic parallels between the two books.

and then there were none, agatha christie – this has been on my ‘want to read’ list for so long, and i was finally able to get a copy of it (along with christie’s the murder of roger ackroyd and the mysterious affair at styles) at a garage sale, of all places! once i finish the little friend and fight club, i’ll probably read this next.

right now school takes up most of my time, and 2016 has been a whirlwind of tests and papers and sleeplessness so far, but i love it all. i’ve already learned and read and written so much in the past two months alone, and there’s still a wealth of knowledge that’s out there for me to absorb as my intellectual self grows. so here’s to a new year of books – of myriads of unread literature – waiting for us all to explore!

we tied starfish to balloons

i took a train to the green hills of a nameless town,
surrounded by endless fields of empty reflection,
swam deep into the smooth curves of the ocean,
and saw nothing but mirrors in the sky above –
but then i heard your laugh, sweeter than love,
form paper airplanes that graced the air
oh hi, hello there, how are you, hello again
we tied starfish to balloons that night,
moonlight lapping at our feet under the stars
as the green hills of that nameless town
melted into the dissonance of my thoughts –
(when you disappeared, i felt nothing at all
no time to say goodbye, to stay a while longer)
the shards of broken glass that poured down
all bore the same face, your face, my eyes,
a cacophony of pious colors
and one morning, we took a train
to the green hills of a nameless town,
surrounded by endless fields of euphoria,
floated on the surface of smooth clear curves,
and tied starfish to balloons that night

smiles slipped across your lips like silt
but then you left, leaving circles in your wake
i took everything we had for granted,
but not anymore

the years never began, nor did they ever end

~

[note: inspired mostly by a recent dream i had, and partly by vienna teng’s flyweight love, which i listened to while writing this.]

9/29/14: featured on words(on)pages: the blog!

janowrimo update (2) – productivity

i’ve been keeping a journal.

it’s one i started on january first. the gist of it is to write one line every day that summarizes whatever you did that day. these past entries have been rather dull, and are more about school than anything else.

today, however, was quite productive.

i’ve written several pages of my novel, and i like where it’s going so far. i think the eureka! moment was when i finally felt comfortable with a certain writing style (which in this case is first person pov, present tense). rereading some of my writing now, it actually sounds similar to how i write on this blog. i don’t drop all caps while writing by hand, though, because that would probably develop into an awful habit that i wouldn’t be able to break. whenever i read my posts here on citrusy, i always imagine myself whispering the words. that’s not what i’m aiming for in my novel, so sticking to the standard writing style works.

in other news, i also finished the majority of my assignments, worked on some of the pieces i’m going to compete with next week (for piano), and practiced baking lemon bars. my friend’s birthday is this tuesday! and we’re going to celebrate at school. birthdays are always super happy occasions. c:

-ktc

nabari no ou (v.14)

cover!!

today, my copy of nabari no ou (volume 14) came in the mail!!

it’s even better in person – there’s the color art and everything! it’s so lovely, and i cried over the ending again after rereading…

once again, i wholeheartedly recommend this series. please read it when you have the time – it’s worth it!

janowrimo update (1)

i’ve been writing in chunks.

the dream scenes come first. they’re the most important parts of the novel, and i want to practice writing more of these outside of janowrimo (hence the ‘dream (#)’ posts on this blog). the parts that my main character spends awake (ie, when she’s at school) will be written later.

another thing – my main character’s personality and situation.

that is both wonderful and awful. my mc is socially awkward and clumsy. not the cute kind of clumsy, but the clunky clumsy that causes secondhand embarrassment. she’s also insecure about her academic future, being a high school student. what does she enjoy doing? what are her interests?  what will she do about her grades, p/sat scores, extracurricular activities? what university will she attend, and what will she major in? then there’s the fact that she’s attending a high school that none of her junior high friends went to; she’s frightened, lonely, and lost. how will she make friends if all she wants to do is stay in bed and sleep?

is this okay?

would people like this character of mine? she’s insecure, clumsy, awkward, and shy. she doesn’t say much in class, and is afraid to talk to her classmates. character development throughout the story will change this, yes, but will people be willing to start out with this main character?

what do you think?