All sorts of bookish adventures!

Inspired Adventures: Out of True, Nostalgia, and Poetry

This is a semi-regular series here at Adventures in Borkdom. It chronicles adventures I have that are directly inspired by the books I read.

Out of True by Amy Durant Lucy's FootballThis latest Inspired Adventure comes from my reading of Out of True by my friend, and fellow blogger, Amy Durant. Here is Goodreads’ synopsis of the book:

The poems in “Out of True” flow through the stories of life and love, deep feeling and light perspective, all with a foundation in the elemental core of the human spirit.

A few concessions are in order. First, I am a friend of Amy’s. I adore Amy’s blog Lucy’s Football. I also engage in lots of good conversation with Amy on Twitter and email. Amy is one of those people whom I know I can ask for advice, ask a silly question, or just commiserate with, and will always receive a truthful, thoughtful response. She is very real, she is very true.

Second, I hate poetry. No. Correction. I have always proclaimed that I hated poetry until I “met” Amy on the internet, and she guided me gently into exploring poetry. I am learning about poetry, and Amy has been my teacher. She is an expert in poetry, and has provided me with recommended reading lists, as well as guidance in my own poetry instruction as a teacher.

Third, going along with my second concession, I am NO poet. I winged it when I was assigned poetry in creative writing classes, and would boast that “I write poetically in my short stories, so it’s all good. I’ve got lots of poetry in my writing.” But, I don’t. I just write and try really hard to sound poetic with a lot of repetition and seeming rhythm in prose. But, I’m not a poet in any way, shape, or form.

So, with the concessions out of the way, let me also say this: Amy’s poetry spoke to me. To different parts of me. And, I found, that every time I picked it up and read it, I found a different statement there. Duh, Mandy. There’s a bunch of different poems with different themes and different topics in that book. Yes, this is true. But, I guess it’s like what everyone tells me about art (another area I “don’t like” because I struggle with “getting it”): it’s different for everybody. And just as I find with Shakespeare, every time I read it, depending upon who I am at the moment I read it, I get a different story. Or, in this case, a different poem.

Reading Amy’s poetry truly was an adventure in itself. As, I said, I’m a coward when it comes to poetry. I struggle with just taking it in, swirling it around on my tongue, and letting the flavors reveal themselves. But, I took my time with each of Amy’s poems, and found that I got it. Amy’s poems revealed not just who she was, but helped in revealing who I am. I forgot that writing can have that kind of power. That’s the whole reason I switched to an English major in college: I was trying to make sense of my own life, and literature acted as a guide. Amy’s poetry had power for me, just as my first reading of Hamlet did.

In particular, Amy’s poems concerning her searches into the past, trying to make meaning of people and events that happened many years ago, REALLY spoke to me. I am a nostalgic person by nature, and I have a tendency to wonder “what if?” and “who are they now?”. And, I wonder if they feel the same way. I found myself pondering the children of my past when I read Amy’s poetry, and I’d like to venture into this theme with Amy’s guidance.

Therefore, this Inspired Adventure will be two-fold: I will overcome my fear of poetry and putting my raw feelings on the printed page, and I will explore my own feelings of the past.

Looking to the Past

Remember: once upon a time, you knew what it was to laugh

– Amy Durant, “If I Disappear, Here is How to Find Me”

When I read Amy’s “Class Reunion 2002, Photo 23 of 30”, “Downed Wires”, and “If I Disappear, Here is How to Find Me”, I realized that I wasn’t the only one looking to the past. Amy writes of people of her past, who, in the present, are barely recognizable. Yet, she still sees them for who they once were; she still remembers. Sometimes, she seeks these memories, and sometimes she seeks these people. I found myself when reading Amy’s words.

I’m an Air Force BRAT (Born, Raised, And Transferred). What that means is that, for most of my young life, I had to move from town to town every four years. I would make friends in one place, only to be uprooted and repeat the process in a new place. This was pre-email, and my friends and I weren’t exactly good about keeping in touch.

This upbringing had an enormous effect on me as a person. I am very reserved when meeting new people, feeling them out before deciding to move forward in friendship (or dislike). Also, I have an addiction to moving–once my Dad got out of the military, I still felt an urge to move every four years, and did so (and might do so again, soon). Finally, I have a severe case of nostalgia. I feel like so many stories in my life are incomplete. What happened? What did I miss? What are my friends and peers doing?

Facebook solves that problem for the people in my life from the last 15 years or so. But, what about my childhood? I still dream about the kids in my elementary school in Oklahoma. I’m still living my life as a 10-year-old when I go to sleep. It probably doesn’t help that I still sleep with the teddy bear I got when I turned 10.

I’m very fortunate that I have very fond memories of my childhood. Growing up in a small town in Oklahoma was the best upbringing I could ever ask for. It was very simple and pure. We had fields to run in, fossils to unearth, and street lights to gage our time by. I don’t hide from my memories, but rather relish them. Being a grown-up sucks. What I wouldn’t give for the wonder I felt at discovering an abandoned tree house in the woods. The fear that the red clay sucking at my shoes was actually quicksand. The simplicity of stressing over a spelling test. Those were the good days.

I don’t think that I’m an anomaly for looking to the past. Whether we shirk it or seek it, we are living, breathing encyclopedias of certain pasts. The people we encounter, whether we want them to or not, live within us. I think about this a lot. The people who are, perhaps, “nobodies” in their current lives, are absolutely huge “somebodies” in my life. And, they don’t even know it. Amy’s writing has encouraged me to share about these important people in my life who live every day within me and my memories, even though I haven’t seen or had any knowledge of them in the last 22 years.

Poetry Class

I sing the hey nonny nonny, I drop my flowers

into the river and I think about whether or not

I would sink or I would float; the wind stopped

being southerly for me weeks ago.

-Amy Durant, “Channeling Ophelia”

Now, for the moment I dread: putting real feelings down on paper and sharing it with the world.

My defenses go up. I’m thinking Hey man. I’m just an Engineering School dropout who likes to read books. What business do I have with writing poetry? I’m into logic, not art.

But, this is an adventure, so I’ll do it!

Amy uses a lot of literary references in her poetry (see Amy’s allusion to Hamlet above), which I love, so I’m going to try to do that.

Also, I’m going to write something in response to her poems. Because, Amy, who’s to say that there isn’t someone out there searching for you? Thinking about you, writing poetry about you? Remembering the beautiful girl that you once were (and still are) and wondering who you are now?

So, here it is. Gulp. My poem. Inspired by Amy Durant’s Out of True. I’m no poet. Please don’t blame Amy. She’s just my teacher. Check out Out of True: it is an amazing, raw collection of poetry that I’m sure will speak to you as much as it did to me.

Don’t say I didn’t warn you. But, this is true for me.

The Immortals

Immortality comes from remembrance.

That’s what I believe.

Shakespeare was not for an age, but for all time.

And all that jazz.

My mind constantly returns to my immortals.

Melanie, who loved unicorns.

Tommy, with a lisp, who loved Def Leppard.

Curtis, throwing up on his desk.

Brian, Nelou, Bill, and Danny.

These children will always be children to me.

They will always be remembered by me.

Do they remember the girl who moved away?

The girl who almost won the spelling bee?

I haven’t forgotten who you are. I know your dreams.

You may not have become the star pitcher for the St. Louis Cardinals.

You might have gotten knocked up in high school and never lost the weight.

You might be dead.

But, you’re not. Because I remember you.

And you are always perfect. And always beautiful.

Montag was the Book of Ecclesiastes.

I will be

Daniel, with the best hair, who made me too shy to talk.

Seri, with the homemade acid-washed jeans.

Tommy, that sweet boy whom I see in all of my struggling students.

Casey, who seemed to have the best of everything.

Danny, who wanted to take me down to the Paradise City where the girls were green and the grass was pretty.

Robert, the poor, starving boy with the thick Okie accent and a jar of pickles for lunch.

Steven, who knocked my tooth out. I haven’t smiled fully since.

C.B., the coolest, MTV-watchingest kid, who better be awesome now.

Valerie, the genius girl who taught me that reading was cool.

Bill, the best guy in the whole world.

Brian, the boy every man has had to live up to.

Jeff, the Webelo.

Scott, the rascal.

Kerrie, the girl who wanted to make the Barbies have sex. Ick.


Nelou, the girl who taught me that it was possible to have it all and still come from nothing. You changed my world.

Along with Amy Durant’s writing, my feelings are perfectly encapsulated by the following:

“Elderly Woman Behind the Counter in a Small Town” by Pearl Jam


“I Was There” by Green Day

You can buy Amy Durant’s book Out of True here at Amazon, here at Barnes and Noble, and here through Luna Station Press.


Late to the Readathon Party!

ImageI guess the title says it best–I’m late! I haven’t been feeling so hot, so I slept in. I am going to read as much as I can today, but my reading might be punctuated by naps and/or an early bedtime. Sorry! But, I’m reading while I’m awake!

What I’m Reading Right Now: The Watchmen

Upcoming Reads Today: Out of True by Amy Durant; Twentieth Century Ghosts by Joe Hill; Perfume by …I can’t remember…

BOOK REVIEW: The Girl Next Door by Jack Ketchum

The Girl Next Door by Jack KetchumThe Girl Next Door by Jack Ketchum

• ebook: 386 pages

• Publisher: Dorchester, 2011 (first published in 1993)

• ISBN: 1428516212

• Genre: Horror/True Crime/Torture Porn

• Recommended For: Fans of movies like Hostel, Saw, and other icky movies.

Quick Review: Earns a 32 %, or 1.6 stars out of 5. Check out my rubric for my detailed assessment. The Girl Next Door Rubric

I didn’t like it AT ALL, but if you don’t mind the torture of a kid by kids and parents, have at it!

How I Got Here: I’m on a quest for a legitimate book scare. I’ve been looking for a truly scary book for some time and this one is regularly recommended. So, I bought the ebook on Amazon (wish I hadn’t).

The Book: Goodreads’ Synopsis

A teenage girl is held captive and brutally tortured by neighborhood children. Based on a true story, this shocking novel reveals the depravity of which we are all capable.

My Analysis and Critique:

Ugh. Why didn’t I read the synopsis and think about my reading/viewing tastes BEFORE I read this one? It’s my fault really.

I like horror of the supernatural variety, or the dystopian variety, not the “let’s watch the 12-year-old narrator get a hard-on as he watches the 14-year-old girl get stripped naked and tortured in his best friend’s basement by his best friends and best friends’ mom.”

This was awful.

It’s time for some concessions though. It wasn’t written awfully. Ketchum seems to be a good writer. And when he describes childhood, it’s pretty dead-on. At times, I felt like I was reading my all-time favorite childhood story It. But…

Faces of DeathI don’t watch movies like Hostel or Saw. In my opinion, they’re just a step away from watching Faces of Death (remember those flicks? yuck.). So, I really didn’t dig watching a young girl getting tortured by her foster family, with all of the neighborhood kids, her disabled little sister, and OUR NARRATOR watching eagerly.

And, I really don’t like stories with unlikeable narrators. I didn’t even like everyone’s favorite The Graduate because I thought Dustin Hoffman’s character was lame. But, then again, at least Hoffman’s character wasn’t getting off to the torture of a young girl.

Plus, the narrator’s actions didn’t always make sense to me. He first introduced the two boys next door disparagingly as an “asshole” and a “retard”, but then he goes on to call them his closest friends. And he continues to refer to them as such, but stands by them as they touch, mutilate, and rape a girl whom he made friends with at the beginning of the book. This doesn’t make sense to me as a critical reader. Never mind the fact that it’s atrocious.

Ketchum knew that what he was writing was awful, and tried to make excuses in his “Author’s Note” . Basically, he says “it could’ve been much worse. I left out a lot of the bad stuff.” Don’t make excuses. It is what it is, and you recreated it in your fiction pretty well. It doesn’t mean that I have to like it though.

If you don’t mind this kind of stuff, go for it. It is written pretty well, despite the problems I had with the narrator’s characterization. I don’t want to read anything like it again. I don’t want my friends and family to read it either. Maybe it’s me, but this book seems good for nothing but a short (or long, if you’re especially sensitive) depression. I don’t want to know. I don’t need to see it. I know that I’m surrounded by sickos in this world, and I’ll pass on the details until I have to deal with it in real life. Ideally, never. Obviously.


Goodreads Reviews

Top Five Favorite TV and Movie Universes

Yesterday, I had my premiere post at Insatiable Booksluts. I contributed an essay on the Stephen King Universe. You know, it’s all about the connections and the bigger story. If you didn’t read it (it’s a long one!) you can check it out here: “The Stephen King Universe“.

To keep with the theme, and because I’m a bit of a conspiracy theorist when it comes to my favorite stories, I’m going to share five more of my favorite fictional universes. This love of overarching universes definitely stems from my first love, Stephen King, and if there are connections between my stories, I’m always eager to figure them out. Here are five more cool universes:

1. The Buffyverse

This is a fairly easy universe. Crossovers between Joss Whedon’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer and the spin-off Angel. Not too mysterious, but I love it none the less.

Spike has the Gem of Amarra for a bit on the Buffy episode “The Harsh Light of Day”

…only to lose it to the Scoobies and it reappears via Oz’ delivery on Angel’s “In the Dark”.

2. The Lost Universe

Oh that mysterious island. A lot of viewers were frustrated with the lack of answers provided in the series finale, but I think that getting there was the fun part. And I’m glad that I still don’t understand what the deal was with Walt. I’m also glad that I can’t seem to remember the rest of the unsolved mysteries. This means it’s time for a re-watch!

What was up with Walt’s powers?

So many questions about Jacob’s cabin…

Also, I’ve just finished Season 1 of Fringe, and I appreciate the appearance of Oceanic Airlines, and the major theme of parallel universes. Perhaps, I should title this section as the Abrams Universe, as I think Cloverfield and Alias also have connections to other Abrams works. We have recurrent references to Slusho and the number 47. Perhaps it’s like King, and everything’s connected. He does reference King’s Nozz-A-La on Lost.

The Mystery Man of Lost Highway

3. The David Lynch Universe

The universe of my nightmares. Seriously, Twin Peaks‘ Leland Palmer still haunts my dreams. And, of course, <shudder> Bob. And then there’s the creepy character played by Robert Blake (simply known as “Mystery Man” on imdb) in Lost Highway. And what was the deal with the frightening homeless guy by the dumpster in Mullholland Drive? Then there’s the recurring appearances of the red room, the little dude from beyond, and probably other things that I still haven’t recognized. This is one universe I need to explore more thoroughly, even if it gives me nightmares.

The recurring red curtains of Lynch…when you know you’re in an otherworldly place…

Umm…you guys? As I was looking for clever little pictures to go with this section, I came across this: World of David Lynch. Enter at your own risk. Some dude created a completely interactive site for David Lynch’s world, and as I was exploring I found Bob behind some furniture!

I was scared shitless and yelled out! Seriously, if you’re looking for creeps and are a fan of Lynch, check this site out! I’m still a little chicken to go back right now.

4. The X-Files Universe

The cigarette-smoking man. The black oil. The super soldiers. That space ship that Scully investigates off the coast of Africa (vague, I know, but I don’t remember precisely where she was). So many mysteries. I loved the mythology of The X-Files, and I really think I need to re-watch it soon. Not part of the mystery, but definitely gives me shudders–“Home”. If you watched the X-Files, you know that episode is creepier than most anything ever on television.

My favorite bad boy Krycek, infected with the black oil…

5. The Tarantino Universe

A new-to-me universe. Not new as in “I’m new to Tarantino”-new, but new like I didn’t realize there was a universe. My sister recently clued me in to the fact that Tarantino’s movies are definitely connected and have different worlds of connections. I guess I wasn’t paying close enough attention.

This is one of my favorite universes simply because I love Tarantino and I’m excited to re-watch his movies with an added purpose: unlocking the connections. Check out this reddit post for more information: “What ‘fan theories have blown your mind…”

What are your favorite fictional universes? Please share because I dig it!

It’s Nearly October…Must be Sign-Up Time!

As I did last year, I’m signing up for a few seasonal reading events…which I highly recommend you join in!

RIP Readers in Peril

First, let me announce that I am, once again, taking part in Stainless Steel Droppings’ Readers Imbibing Peril (R.I.P.) event.

For those of you who don’t know (and I’m guessing you all do, so this disclaimer is redundant), I’m a mood reader. And a seasonal reader. I seem to enjoy classics in the Winter, so if you were reading my blog in the months of January to April, you’d think I only read classics. But, if you read me in the Fall, you’ll find Adventures in Borkdom to be a straight-up horror blog. That’s because of the R.I.P. event.

The R.I.P. event is all about reading and viewing horror in the months of September and October. Last year, I took part and loved it. Just like last year, I’m going to commit to the highest of participation levels: Peril the First (read four or more books of the horror genre), Peril of the Short Story (read short stories of the horror genre), and Peril on the Screen (watch horror movies and television). I do all of these things in October anyways, so my participation shouldn’t be difficult at all. Here are my reading and viewing plans:

Perfume by Patrick SuskindTo Read in September and October:

World War Z by Max Brooks (Zombie Apocalypse Lit.)Hell House by Richard Matheson

Perfume: The Story of a Murderer by Patrick Suskind (Serial Killer Lit.)

The Passage by Justin Cronin (Vampire Apocalypse Lit.)

Hell House by Richard Matheson (Haunted House Lit.)

Drawing Blood by Poppy Z. Brite (Vampire Lit.)

20th Century Ghosts by Joe Hill (Paranormal Lit./Short Stories)

The Living Dead Zombie Anthology Neil Gaiman George R.R. Martin Joe Hill The Girl Next Door by Jack Ketchum (True Crime Horror Lit.)

Zombie by Joyce Carol Oates (Serial Killer Lit.)

The Living Dead (Zombie Apocalypse Lit./Short Stories)

For Peril on the Screen, here is a list of movies and television I’ll probably view in October:

American Horror Story on FX

Supernatural on CW

The Walking Dead on AMC

• Any and all new horror television premiering this FallTwo Thousand Maniacs Cult Horror movie

• Cult classic horror movies on TCM

• Another viewing of The Blair Witch Project (I know it’s not scary for some, but it gets me every time!)

• Maybe another viewing of Kubric’s The Shining or my all-time favorite The Omen

• Maybe a new horror movie in the theater, if any upcoming ones are supposed to be good (cross my fingers!)

Hopefully, I’ll be able to read and watch all of that horror! To help me meet my goals, I need to announce another sign-up that shouldn’t be surprising to anyone! It’s an easy guess. Just think of the one event I was all hyped up about twice last year, and pushed my friends to take part.

You should have guessed the Dewey’s 24-hour Readathon! Of course I’ve signed up again! It’s simply what I do.

So, I’m thinking that I’ll be reading a huge chunk of these books on Saturday, October 13. It doesn’t matter if I already had plans for that Saturday (I don’t think I did, but who knows!). Consider them cancelled. Because readathons are what I do! Don’t worry SJ and other friends, I’m not going to peer pressure you into this one. If you tried it, liked it, and would like to do it again, I know you’ll sign up. If not, at least you tried it. But, for those of you who haven’t participated in Dewey’s Readathon, I HIGHLY recommend it! So, it’s October 13. Mark it on your calendar!

I’m excited for all the horror (the horror! the horror!) coming up! Won’t you join me in the chills?

Embarassing Sunday Photos

Inspired by SJ, and feeling it’s only fair to give a laugh when taking one, I have come across a photo that I think is sufficiently embarassing. First, if you haven’t seen SJ’s “Embarassing Sunday Photos” post, click here!

This is me at my sister’s softball tournament, circa 1992.

Notice the awesome bangs. Please notice them, it took me a while to do them and a long time to figure out how to get them to stand straight up and over. Some teasing, a lot of hair spray, and a bit of a blow dryer.

Next, take notice of the shirt. At one time, this was the coolest shirt. It was a “hypercolor” tee-shirt. It changed color with heat, namely your fingertips. Or, at least it did until my mom washed it on hot. Then it became more similar to a tie-dye tee-shirt. “God Mom! Why can’t you read the label before you wash things? It’s not even hypercolor anymore!”

Finally, notice the sunburn and white legs. The bane of my existence. My legs were as tan as they would ever be, and even now I don’t think I could ever get them that tan again. And the burned nose. Always a peeling burned nose. Sigh. This was and is my life.

Going along with SJ, I’ll share what I KNOW was in my walkman at the time. Shut up! Color Me Badd was the coolest. They were even on Beverly Hills 90210. Before it was simply 90210.

Let’s Get up to Speed!

Alright, now where were we?

Oh yes! The last time I was here, I explained that I’ve been busy planning curriculum for my new position as 8th grade English teacher (as opposed to the last 3 years as 7th grade). Before that, I submitted an “Inspired Adventures” post on LARPing and The Return of the King.

Whoo! It’s been a while!

Alright, well let’s catch up then, shall we?

Still, I am very much in the depths of reinventing the wheel when it comes to teaching 8th grade English. I have to learn the new levels of rigor embedded in the 8th grade English standards. No longer are my students simply expected to “identify an idiom”. Now, they must be able to translate said idiom and explain what it’s purpose is in the overall text and what its effect is. Higher level stuff. Plus, I’m trying to figure out how to make my class digital, what with the inclusion of iPad technology in our classroom. That will be interesting, engaging, and convenient (not so much paper!) once I figure it out. So, there’s that.

What else has been going on? Well, you may have heard through the internets that I have a new blogging job. I’m proud to announce here that I am now a contributor to Insatiable Booksluts, and my first post will be published this week. It’s an essay on the works of Stephen King. Not a big surprise for those of you who know me and read my writing here. I’m a big fan of King and it was a blast planning and working with the ladies of IB on this week’s event, which will be a week-long event commemmorating King and all of his work. If you don’t follow Insatiable Booksluts (which you should! It’s a phenomenal book blog.), I will let you know here when my post is published this week. This essay was a major undertaking, a major labor of love, and I really hope you all read it. If anything because I put A LOT of work into it (let’s just say that I’ve been working on this essay in varying levels of effort since April or May).

I need to also tell everyone that I am VERY PROUD to have been asked by Susie of IB to contribute to their blog. Anyone who reads my blog or Twitter feed knows that I am a huge fan of Insatiable Booksluts, and to be asked to write for them feels like a major promotion. I admire those ladies a lot, and I hope that I can live up to their standard of excellence in book blogging. I’m also just excited that this means I get to collaborate with them. They’re fun ladies to hang out with on Twitter, and any excuse to engage with them is alright in my book!

World War Z Max Brooks Zombie Apocalypse audiobook

I haven’t read much, if at all since the school year started. I have listened—I’ve been listening to World War Z by Max Brooks in the car and on my iPod. I’m almost done, and I really like the book. It’s like the back story to The Walking Dead. Unfortunately, while it’s a really good audiobook, I fail at audiobooks. I space out and have to rewind all the time. I’m probably going to have to re-read this one.

Fringe J.J. Abrams Fox

Since I haven’t been reading much, I have been spending my evenings after work watching Fringe. Super-awesome show. It’s right up my alley. I’ll probably write something about Season 1 this week.

Speaking of this week, I’ll be posting a few times here. No. Really. I will. I’m going to write and schedule my posts right now. Until my work load lightens, that’s pretty much how it’s going to have to be–writing on the weekends. I’ll be around on email and Twitter, but I really don’t have much time to write for the blog during the week.

With that said, I’ll see you all around!