All sorts of bookish adventures!

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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.


The History of English Literature by Perry Keenlyside; narrated by Derek Jacobi and Cast

• Audiobook: 0 pages

• Publisher: NAXOS Audiobooks, 2001

• ISBN: 9626342218

• Genre: Nonfiction–Literary History and Analysis

• Recommended For: Anyone looking for a quick overview of the entire history of English Literature, from Chaucer to Ishiguro, in an easy listening audiobook format.

Quick Review: Quick and easy listening to a very, very brief synopsis of the history of English literature. Highly recommended for its quick access to authors and tidbits of English history that one might have forgotten or overlooked. Is also brilliantly read by Jacobi and the rest of the cast, who read snippets from the classics expertly.

How I Got Here: I was returning a book to the library, and decided that I wanted an audiobook for the car. There wasn’t much of a selection, but then I spotted this title and decided it would be perfect for my driver’s short attention span.

The Book: Goodreads’ Synopsis

The remarkable story of the world’s richest literary resource, the story telling, poetry, the growth of the novel and the greatest histories and essays, which have informed the language and the imagination wherever English is spoken.

My Analysis and Critique:

This audiobook was perfect for my quick drives to and from work each day! Each track focuses upon one writer from a certain time period, providing a bit of history of the author and the world around them, and then usually providing a reading of a snippet of one of their most notable works. So, usually, I could learn about three to five different authors and works on a one-way trip to my work, and not have to think/listen too hard.

Each disc is also separated into two to three different literary movements/time periods. Being a history, the text obviously moves chronologically. Thus, it is set up as thus:

Canterbury Tales

1. The Age of Chaucer (Middle Ages: Chaucer, Gower’s Sir Gawain, The Bible, and Langland’s Piers Plowman)

2. The End of Chivalry (Mid 15th Century: John Lydgate, Mallory, and Skelton to Sir Thomas More’s Utopia and Le Morte D’Arthur to Wyatt’s love lyrics and Cranmer’s Book of Common Prayer)

Queen Elizabeth; The Faerie Queene; Elizabethan Age

3. Triumphs of Oriana (Elizabethan Age: Spenser, Raleigh, and Sydney to the trio of Marlowe, Shakespeare, and Jonson, and the poetry and essays by Donne and Bacon)

William Congreve The Way of the World Restoration

4. Puritan’s Progress (Restoration: religious metaphysical poetry by Herbert and Vaughan; Cavalier poetry by Lovelace and Herrick; the epic works by Milton; Marvell; Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress; the first English novel in Defoe’s Moll Flanders; Dryden’s poetry; and finally, Congreve’s The Way of the World)

Gulliver's Travels Jonathan Swift

5. The Augustan Age (Age of Enlightenment: Pope’s poetry and essays; Swift’s satirical Gulliver’s Travels; Samuel Johnson’s criticism and Dictionary; the novels of Fielding, Richardson, Sterne, and Smallett; and Gray’s “Elegy on a Country Churchyard”)

The Eve of St. Agnes by John Keats

6. Romantic Revolution (poetry by Blake, Wordsworth, and Coleridge; Shelley’s Gothic Frankenstein; Austen’s novels; and the poetry of Shelley, Byron, and Keats)

7. Faith and Doubt (The Victorian Age: Dickens; the rise of children’s literature and the detective novel; the Brontes; Arnold’s “Dover Beach”; the novels of George Eliot; poetry by Tennyson, Rosetti, and Browning; the works of Kipling)

Modernism War Literature

8. The Age of Anxiety (Turn of the century/wartime: Hardy’s novels; Houseman’s poetry; the works of Henry James (?!); Conrad’s Heart of Darkness; Wells’ science fiction; controversial D.H. Lawrence; the war poetry of Wilfred Owen; the Irish writers Yeats, Shaw, Wilde, and Joyce; Woolf’s To The Lighthouse; the satire of Evelyn Waugh; Orwell and Huxley; and the poetry of Eliot and Auden)

Lucky Jim by Kingsley Amis

9. Post-War, Post-Modern(Multitude of voices and styles, as genres mesh: Cecil Day Lewis; Keith Douglas; Dylan Thomas; Ivy Compton Burnett; Jean Rhys; Doris Lessing; Muriel Spark; Iris Murdoch; William Golding; Angus Wilson; Anthony Powell; Kingsley Amis; Philip Larkin; Ted Hughes; J.G. Ballard; Salman Rushdie; Kazuo Ishiguro; Carol Ann Duffy)

While obviously this text is just a brief skim, a tiny overview of the great expanse of British Literature, I appreciated it for its providing me with some authors and works that I need to check out in the future. I also appreciated that it flowed so nicely together that it sounded like a story–the story that is English literature.

I also relished the lessons learned on the evolution of the novel, as well as the information provided in the Post-War, Post-Modern section (I am shockingly poorly read in modern literature! This needs to be remedied!)

Overall, I highly recommend this to anyone interested in gaining some insight on the history of English literature and listening to some classics read expertly by various voices. I’m not sure how easy this audiobook is to come by, as I just happened upon it at my library, but if you can find it, I recommend it!


Goodreads Reviews

So, I’m not sure why, but I’ve been in a funk all week. Apathy. Didn’t want to do anything. Came home from work on Monday, no motivation. Watched Reality TV (I never watch Reality TV…I prefer stories). Watched Smash (not impressed, but it didn’t take any brains, so it served its purpose). Tuesday–same thing, except I read I Want My MTV and watched 80s videos on YouTube while I read about the making of the videos (wow, I  forgot how much I love the videos for Gypsy and Hold Me from Fleetwood Mac. And Total Eclipse of the Heart was a really weird video!). Wednesday, see Tuesday. Thursday– I spiced it up after a pep-talk from the wonderful GreenGeekGirl from Insatiable Booksluts and a poetry recommendation from the poetry buff Amy at Lucy’s Football. I read 20 Dorothy Parker poems THAT I LOVED, as recommended for my mood from Amy. Thanks girls for your advice and support!

I’m sorry—I have to interrupt myself with one of my favorite 80s videos—the boys from Journey talk so much shit about this video in my book, but I have always loved Steve Perry in it. He was my FIRST crush. My parents joke about how I would stare at the tv back in ’82/’83 when this video came on–

I’m totally rocking out as this is playing in the background. I’m typing as if I’m playing the keyboard. Have you ever done this? Try it with The Eurythmics…that totally helped me get through late night typing sessions in college. My typing speed went WAYYYY UP. Man, I am loving this. I Want My MTV is helping me find my love for music again. You might see more music talk on here now as I rediscover my love for Joe Jackson, The Cure, The Smiths, and whatnot. At one time I was known as a music geek and not a book geek. Random fact for you. Totally free. I think Amy is rubbing off on my writing style. Off on a tangent…

Now, it’s Friday and I feel a million times better! It might have to do with the fact that my students proved that all of my hard work this week paid off–they nailed their persuasive essays today (they wrote 5 paragraphs in 60 minutes). These are all ESL and Special Ed. kids who have never written more than a book report in their life, and today they totally wrote thesis statements, topic sentences, transition words, addressed counterarguments, and explained their reasons. I am so proud!!!

Also, it’s the weekend, and while I have a ton of grading to do, it now doesn’t seem so daunting. Sure, I haven’t gone to the gym all week, and my house is a mess, but it’s all gravy baby! Everything will work out…it always does.

Anyways, I know we’ve all been there, and I’m just glad it’s over.

Locke and Key vol. 1On the positive side, I did read! Since my last post, I finished The Drawing of the Three by Stephen King, and volume one of Locke and Key by Joe Hill. Also, I’m about a third of the way through I Want My MTV  by Craig Marks and Rob Tannenbaum and half-way through Mrs. Warren’s Profession by George Bernard Shaw. So, at least I’m reading!

I should have a review of The Drawing of the Three in the next few days, and a review of Locke and Key subsequently. So, I’m getting back into the groove.

I really want to give away books too, I just need to announce it. Perhaps, I’ll officially announce it tomorrow. Well, let’s just say that I have a bunch of books to give away–Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children and A Visit from the Goon Squad among them–and I will announce that shortly. I’ll do a raffle for a week or so.

Well, it’s good to be back! I’ve missed you all, and will be more active in the upcoming week!

I’ve been getting all serious and intense with my writings on Dickens, so I wanted to take a break and get all gushy. Which is good because it’s easy and my brain is mush. So, here’s my top ten list of hotties from the different books that I’ve read over the years…

I have to admit, I feel a little silly and school girl-ish writing this one. If my husband reads this, he is soooo going to make fun of me. If you don’t want to read my gushy-ness, tune in tomorrow, when I return to our regular programming. Well, I just had to make that disclaimer.

1. Mr. Rochester from Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

A very long scene that reflects what I love about Rochester:

I stood face to face with him: it was Mr. Rochester.

‘How do you do?’ he asked.

‘I am very well, sir.’

‘Why did you not come and speak to me in the room?’

I thought I might have retorted the question on him who put it: but I would not take that freedom. I answered–

‘I did not wish to disturb you, as you seemed engaged, sir.’

‘What have you been doing in my absence?’

‘Nothing particular; teaching Adele as usual.’

‘And getting a good deal paler than you were– as I saw at first sight. What is the matter?’

‘Nothing at all, sir.’ […]

‘Return to the drawing-room: you are deserting too early.’

‘I am tired, sir.’

He looked at me for a minute.

‘And a little depressed,’ he said. ‘What about? Tell me.’

‘Nothing–nothing, sir, I am not depressed.’

‘But I affirm that you are: so much depressed that a few more words would bring tears to your eyes- indeed, they are there now, shining and swimming; and a bead has slipped from the lash and fallen on to the flag. If I had time, and was not in mortal dread of some prating prig of a servant passing, I would know what all this means. Well, to-night I excuse you; but understand that so long as my visitors stay, I expect you to appear in the drawing-room every evening; it is my wish; don’t neglect it. […] Good-night my–‘ He stopped, bit his lip and abruptly left me.

At this point in reading, I knew

A. Mr. Rochester had it bad for Jane,

B. I had it bad for Rochester, and

C. My #1 for 10 years, Mr. Darcy, had been bumped from the top of my book boyfriends!

Mr. Darcy Colin Firth Pride and Prejudice

2. Mr. Darcy from Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

In vain have I struggled. It will not do. My feelings will not be repressed. You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you.

Oh Darcy. How I love your social awkwardness and your upfront ways. You had me at “she is tolerable.”

3. Julian from The Forbidden Game by L.J. Smith

Light to darkness, Jenny. Darkness to light. It’s always been this way.

My teen crush. He was the antagonist AND the love interest–it totally threw me for a loop that I was crushing on a bad guy. This one definitely influenced my love for Spike from Buffy.

Bill Denbrough from It by Stephen King; Jonathan Brandis

4. Bill Denbrough from IT by Stephen King

Bill was here, and Bill would take care; Bill would not let things get out of control. He was the tallest of them, and surely the most handsome. […] Bill was also the strongest of them–and not just physically. There was a good deal more to it than that, but since Richie did not know either the word charisma or the full meaning of the word magnetism, he only felt that Bill’s strength ran deep and might manifest itself in many ways.

-Richie Tozier on Bill Denbrough

Before I liked bad boys, I liked the good boys. And Bill was the best. I was 11, he was 11, it was perfect. This was before I knew that the class clown was the way to go–Richie Tozier would have been my book boyfriend if I read IT a few years later.

Benedick; Much ado about nothing; shakespeare

5. Benedick from “Much Ado About Nothing” by William Shakespeare

Benedick, Act 1 Scene 1: it is certain I am lov’d of all ladies, only you excepted; and I would I could find in my heart that I had not a hard heart, for truly I love no one.

Bendedick, Act 1 Scene 1, later: In faith, hath not the world one man but he will wear his cap with suspicion? Shall I never see a bachelor of threescore again?

Benedick, Act 2 Scene 3: The say the lady is fair; ’tis a truth, I can bear them witness; and virtuous, ’tis so, I cannot reprove it; and wise, but for loving me; by my troth, it is no addition to her wit, nor no great argument of her folly, for I will be horribly in love with her. I may chance have some odd quirks and remnants of wit broken on me, because I have rail’d so long against marriage; but doth not the appetite alter? […] No, the world must be peopled.

Oh Benedick–you have no interest in love and marriage until you find out Beatrice loves you, and then you’re all lovey-dovey. Benedick and Beatrice are one of my all-time favorite couples, as they are both so witty and are one of the most well-matched and equal pairs in literature.

Tyrion Lannister Game of Thrones Dinklage

6. Tyrion Lannister from A Song of Ice and Fire series by George R.R. Martin

My mind is my weapon. My brother has his sword, King Robert has his warhammer, and I have my mind […] and a mind needs books as a sword needs a whetstone, if it is to keep its edge.

The beauty of Martin’s writing is that his characters develop so much and slowly through the book, that you find yourself and your opinions of them developing without your even noticing it! This was the case with Tyrion, whom I was amused by at first, then admired, and then, come A Feast for Crows, Tyrion is no longer in the book, and I truly missed him.  And no, that’s not a spoiler!

Gilbert Blythe ; Anne of Green Gables

7. Gilbert Blythe from the Anne of Green Gables series by Lucy Maud Montgomery

Nothing mattered much to me for a time there, after you told me you could never love me, Anne. There was nobody else–there never could be anybody else for me but you. I’ve loved you ever since that day you broke your slate over my head in school.

I think Gilbert might have been my first book boyfriend. Interesting how the very good guys get pushed aside for the rogues, scoundrels, and jerks as we grow up…I wonder what these book boyfriends say about me…

8. Rhett Butler from Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell

‘Sir,’ she said, ‘you are no gentleman!’

‘An apt observation,’ he answered airily. ‘And, you, Miss, are no lady.’

This line runs through my head constantly, as I am truly not a lady either, and can hear Rhett in my head whenever I fall down stairs, curse, burp, punch, etc. I love Rhett’s honesty, and I love that he loves that Scarlett isn’t a lady. He’s the best kind of man–the kind who will let you be exactly who you want to be and are, and love you all the more for it. Plus, he’s witty and generous and experienced! Rhett is the best!

Divergent by Veronica Roth

9. Four from Divergent by Veronica Roth

 ‘You think my first instinct is to protect you. Because you’re small, or a girl, or a Stiff. But you’re wrong.’
He leans his face close to mine and wraps his fingers around my chin. His hand smells like metal. When was the last time he held a gun, or a knife? My skin tingles at the point of contact, like he’s transmitting electricity through his skin.
‘My first instinct is to push you until you break, just to see how hard I have to press.’ he says, his fingers squeezing at the word break. My body tenses at the edge in his voice, so I am coiled as tight as a spring, and I forget to breathe.
His dark eyes lifting to mine, he adds, ‘But I resist it.’
‘Why…’ I swallow hard. ‘Why is that your first instinct?’
‘Fear doesn’t shut you down; it wakes you up. I’ve seen it. It’s fascinating.’ He releases me but doesn’t pull away, his hand grazing my jaw, my neck. ‘Sometimes I just want to see it again. Want to see you awake.’

I don’t know how, but Four made me feel fourteen all over again! He is the newest inductee into my book boyfriends, the latest since Rochester. This scene in particular made me want to write “I heart Four” on my notebook cover and squee! with my girlfriends.

10. E.E. Cummings from “i carry your heart with me” (especially when I hear it read like this)

And then there’s this poet who wrote the most beautiful poem that I’ve ever heard. I didn’t quite realize how beautiful it was until I heard it read aloud—and it was read aloud by Heath Ledger, so that really made me take notice. I recommend you listen to it! A big thanks to Amy at Lucy’s Football and GreenGeekGirl of Insatiable Booksluts for introducing me to this poem and Heath Ledger’s reading of it!

[i carry your heart with me(i carry it in]

By E. E. Cummings1894–1962