Toni Morrison: Chipotle Cups

A Facebook friend of mine posted that she is disappointed that Chipotle didn’t feature any Hispanic authors for their new selection of  paperbag/cup readings. I commented that it might be a good thing since, after all, I don’t want to read a Toni Morrison story while I’m doing my Popeye’s or KFC fingerlickin’. Low and behold, no sooner did I say mention her name that I found her story on the side of what? A Chipotle cup!

Morrison Chipotle Cup

“Two-Minute Seduction” by Toni Morrison

I took my heart out and gave it to a writer made heartless by fame, someone who needed it to pump blood into veins desiccated by the suck and roar of crowds slobbering or poisoning or licking up the red froth they mistake for happiness because happiness looks just like a heart painted on a valentine cup or tattooed on an arm that has never held a victim or comforted a hurt friend. I took it out and the space it left in my chest was sutured tight like the skin of a drum.

As my own pulse failed, I fell along with a soft shower of rain typical in this place.

Lying there, collapsed under trees bordering the mansion of the famous one I saw a butterfly broken by the slam of a single raindrop on its wings fold and flutter as it hit a pool of water still fighting for the lift that is its nature. I closed my eyes expecting to dissolve into stars or lava or a brutal sequoia when the famous writer appeared and leaned down over me. Lifting my head he put his lips on mine and breathed into my mouth one word and then another, and another, words upon words then numbers, then notes. I swallowed it all while my mind filled with language, measure, music, knowledge.

Find out more about the inspiration for these cups and read the stories from other featured authors at Vanity Fair. And get to smackin’ on that burrito bowl with the $2 guacamole add-on. Do it for Toni. Happy reading, y’all.

 

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Stephen King: The N-Word

When I finished Carrie, I was truly interested in picking up Cujo next, but decided to read something else instead. At a certain point during my Carrie read, I paused to consider whether King is racist. After all, this is my third book by King that makes some sort of, in my eyes, unnecessary “negroid, negro, niggers” reference. I admit that I’ve only read 3 books by King so far (not including the failed attempts I made as a teen to get into his works), but when I think about The Shining, Green Mile, and now Carrie, there were a few–as noted at Racialicious–unnecessary nigger-word bombs. Is it possible that maybe the use of the word goes along with the novel’s setting or builds characterization in some way? Well, I have a few King titles on my e-reader and decided to search for “nigger.” Here’s what I found in the books I actually read by King, beginning with Carrie:

carriebook…of fighting with desperate decorum to keep the niggers out of Kleen Korners, standing shoulder to shoulder…

There was a picture of the tarbaby sitting in the middle of the road, looking like one of those old-time Negro minstrels with the blackface and great big white eyes.

She looked at him from the floor, her lip puffed to negroid size, her eyes pleading.

A couple from The Shining (14 matches for “nigger”):

the-shiningLater the workman told his wife that he knew it was just one of those niggery hairdos they were all wearing these days, but at the time it had looked just as if every hair on that coon’s head was standing on end.

(GET OUT OF HERE YOU DIRTY NIGGER THIS IS NONE OF YOUR BUSINESS YOU NIGGER TURN AROUND TURN AROUND OR WE’LL KILL YOU HANG YOU UP FROM A TREE LIMB YOU FUCKING JUNGLE-BUNNY COON AND THEN BURN THE BODY THAT’S WHAT WE DO WITH NIGGERS SO TURN AROUND NOW)

His brother had a big old nigger-chaser in the band of his hat, saved all the way from the Fourth of July.

And a few from Green Mile (10 matches found for “nigger”):

GreenMile“Looks more like a nigger eating watermelon to me,” Percy remarked . . .

I’ve heard about nigger-cocks my whole life but never seen one!

Said something about how niggers should have their own electric chair, and that was all.

 

I searched through a few early titles from King and noted that he manages to use nigger at least twice in a few of his works. While I still have several books that I’d like to read by King, from now on I may be more tempted to search for the book’s nigger usage count–just for the hell of it beforehand. Happy reading, y’all.

Octavia Butler: New Release

In the spirit of Tupac, Octavia Butler will soon release new works from the grave, aptly titled Unexpected Stories. With plans to release the title in digital formats only, Walter Mosley pens the introduction for this 2-story book. Read on for more:

The novella “OctaviaButlerUSA Necessary Being” showcases Octavia E. Butler’s ability to create alien yet fully believable “others.” Tahneh’s father was a Hao, one of a dwindling race whose leadership abilities render them so valuable that their members are captured and forced to govern. When her father dies, Tahneh steps into his place, both chief and prisoner, and for twenty years has ruled without ever meeting another of her kind. She bears her loneliness privately until the day that a Hao youth is spotted wandering into her territory. As her warriors sharpen their weapons, Tahneh must choose between imprisoning the newcomer—and living the rest of her life alone.

The second story in this volume, “Childminder,” was commissioned by Harlan Ellison for his legendary (and never-published) anthology The Last Dangerous VisionsTM. A disaffected telepath connects with a young girl in a desperate attempt to help her harness her growing powers. But in the richly evocative fiction of Octavia E. Butler, mentorship is a rocky path, and every lesson comes at a price.

Last summer I had an opportunity to devour Kindred and definitely plan to eventually read more books from Butler’s collection of writings. Happy reading, y’all.

Tea Cake Made Me Do It: Their Eyes Were Watching God

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I’ve attempted to read Their Eyes Were Watching God (TEWWG) numerous times through the years. In a number of ways, I just don’t think I was ever really ready–as a reader or as a woman. However, this time around, I finished the book in one sitting. Sure, my inspiration was seeing Michael Ealy play Tea Cake in the film adaptation with Halle Berry, but I just had to see if Tea Cake was as sexy a literary character as the movie portrayed him to be. And although my answer is not so much, I can admit that I finally completed this classic work.

Like any classic book, through the years TEWWG has seen many changes in its cover art. Instead of writing a review, I thought I’d focus on the visual presentation of the book instead.

Screen Shot 2014-04-27 at 8.49.48 PM Screen Shot 2014-04-27 at 8.49.35 PMScreen Shot 2014-04-27 at 8.50.01 PM

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If you’ve never seen the full-length movie, you might want to check out the YouTube clip below. Happy reading, y’all!

Return to Fiction

Been such a long time. Over a year to be exact. I wouldn’t say that I’ve stopped reading because something like that would be unimaginable. I just don’t read fiction like I use to. I’m even ashamed to say that I’ve started several fiction books and put them down unfinished. I don’t know much about new releases or book news either. It’s a sad state of affairs.

But the good thing is, I have pre-teen students who harass me about reading. They ask me everyday why I haven’t finished Divergent and why I haven’t started Uglies. They tell me about their books and I watch as they bring countless paperbacks into my classroom eager to read given a moment’s chance. Even my family has asked about what I’m reading and I often rattle off some cookbook, self-help, or non-fiction title. Well, recently, a friend of mine mentioned that she planned to read 12 books in 3 months. I told her I’d turn off the television and join her for the challenge. Let’s see if I can keep my word. Of course, the hard part (besides the watching the idiot box and getting off the phone) is choosing what to read. I can never decide! I don’t even think I want to bother with the books I put down, but I feel kinda obligated.

I made a few updates to the blog for the sake of motivation. My iPad is fully loaded with tons of books. We shall see if I can keep up with this 3-month commitment. Send a kind word if you’re still out there.

Happy reading, y’all.

The Last Days of Ptolemy Grey by Walter Mosley: A Review

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“When you deal with a person who’s experiencing dementia, you can see where they’re struggling with knowledge [. . . ] You can see what they forget completely, what they forget but they know what they once knew. You can tell how they’re trying to remember. … What I saw in my mom’s eyes and in some of her expressions, was her saying, ‘I want to understand it; I want to understand what you’re saying; I want to enter into a dialogue with you; I want things to be the way they were.’ That’s the crux of the novel: What would you do to have things the way they were?” ― Walter Mosley on The Last Days of Ptolemy Grey

ptolemygreyMy Summary: 91-year old Ptolemy Grey is lost in his memories until a doctor gives him the medicine he needs to gain clarity, set resolutions, reflect upon regrets, and seek redemption.

Their Summary: Ptolemy Grey is ninety-one years old and has been all but forgotten-by his family, his friends, even himself-as he sinks into a lonely dementia. His grand-nephew, Ptolemy’s only connection to the outside world, was recently killed in a drive-by shooting, and Ptolemy is too suspicious of anyone else to allow them into his life, until he meets Robyn, his niece’s seventeen-year-old lodger and the only one willing to take care of an old man at his grandnephew’s funeral. But Robyn will not tolerate Ptolemy’s hermit-like existence. She challenges him to interact more with the world around him, and he grasps more firmly onto his disappearing consciousness. However, this new activity pushes Ptolemy into the fold of a doctor touting an experimental drug that guarantees Ptolemy won’t live to see age ninety- two but that he’ll spend his last days in feverish vigor and clarity. With his mind clear, what Ptolemy finds-in his own past, in his own apartment, and in the circumstances surrounding his grand-nephew’s death-is shocking enough to spur an old man to action, and to ensure a legacy that no one will forget.

Thoughts on the Book: There was plenty of wisdom shared throughout the pages of Ptolemy Grey. I could see and hear every character and various emotions were raised during their interactions with one another. The book made me question and reflect upon my own life, wondering what regrets or memories I might hold onto if I reached 91. What relationships impacted me in ways I might not realize now and what thoughts would bring me sorrow? Obviously, Ptolemy Grey is the kind of book that makes you think and even teaches lessons, as all books should. I mean, the summary says just enough of what you need to know about this one. I loved it. I suggest you read it for yourself. I don’t know what more I can say.

Oh, I will add that when I thought about who might play the part of Ptolemy in a movie adaption, the first person that came to mind was Samuel L. Jackson. Little did I know that according to Shadow & Act (they know everything!), there’s already something in the works. Read more on that. Sorry this isn’t much of a review. I just really enjoyed this book. Sometimes it’s that simple.

Excerpt: “Are you still having trouble thinking?” Church asked.

“No. I think just fine,” Ptolemy said. “It’s just that I got some trouble remberin’ things I used to know. I mean, I know you got them gloves on ’cause you think there’s a germ in here. I know that this girl here is my granddaughter. But I don’t remembah where I put things a long time ago, an’ I cain’t, I cain’t . . . things I need to find.”

There was so much he couldn’t do. Sometimes he’d stand over thee toilet for five minutes waiting to urinate. Sometimes when the phone would ring he’d go to the door and ask, “Who is it?” and when Robyn told him that it was the pone he’d get so embarrassed that he’d go  into the bedroom just  so he wouldn’t have to see her feeling sorry for him.

waltermosleyWalter Mosley on Writing:  My only ritual for writing is that I do it every morning. I wake up and get to work. If I’m in a motel in Mobile — so be it. If I am up all night, and morning is two o’clock in the afternoon, well, that’s okay too. The only thing that matters is that you write, write, write. It doesn’t have to be good writing. As a matter of fact, almost all first drafts are pretty bad. What matters is that you get down the words on the page or the screen — or into the tape recorder, if you work like that. Your first sentence will start you out, but don’t let it trip you up. If you are the intuitive type, just sit down and start writing the novel: Lamont had only enough cash to buy half a pint of whiskey at Bob’s Liquor Emporium, but he knew it wouldn’t be enough. Ragman was dead, and that was at least a quart’s worth of mourning. What does it mean? How should I know? Those were the first words that came out. I’m not going to worry about it; I’m just going to keep on writing until either something clicks or I lose momentum. If it doesn’t seem to be working, I’ll start with a new first sentence. I’ll keep on like that until something strikes my fancy and I have enough of a handle on the story to continue. (Read more . . . )

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Happy reading, y’all.

Wild by Cheryl Strayed: A Review

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Aside from marrying my husband and having my children, hiking the PCT was the best thing I ever did. The hike very literally forced me to put one foot in front of the other at a time when emotionally I didn’t think I could do that. You have to keep walking, no matter what. – Cheryl Strayed

wildMy Quickie Summary: Proceeding her mother’s death, a divorce, sexual awakening, and heroin habit, Cheryl Stayed decides to hike the Pacific Coast Trail (PCT) to sort out her mind state—without a real plan.

Their Summary: At twenty-two, Cheryl Strayed thought she had lost everything. In the wake of her mother’s death, her family scattered and her own marriage was soon destroyed. Four years later, with nothing more to lose, she made the most impulsive decision of her life. With no experience or training, driven only by blind will, she would hike more than a thousand miles of the Pacific Crest Trail from the Mojave Desert through California and Oregon to Washington State—and she would do it alone. Told with suspense and style, sparkling with warmth and humor, Wild powerfully captures the terrors and pleasures of one young woman forging ahead against all odds on a journey that maddened, strengthened, and ultimately healed her.

Thoughts on the Book: Wild had the potential to maintain my initial interest, or so I believed. I don’t hike or do outdoorsy type stuff and honestly wasn’t familiar with the Pacific Coast Trail (PCT) until this book. After reading the summary, I couldn’t help but wonder what happened to her out on that trail that would make Oprah not only select her book for her book club, but also that would make so many other people read it. Well, I found out for myself that Oprah’s stamp of approval may not suit my tastes.

Cheryl Strayed begins her memoir with her mother’s death and then shifts through a divorce with Paul, a man she’d been married to since the age of 19. After dealing with promiscuity and a developing heroin habit, she decides to hike the PCT to get her mind and life back. When she begins this hike, what drove me was that she didn’t have a real plan. She admitted to the stupidity of this as often as it entered my own head. Her backpack was too big, her boots too small, and overall she just wasn’t prepared. I kept reading to see how she’d overcome these shortcomings, but then the book started to read like this:

blah, blah, blah, backpack too big, blah, blah, blah, my feet hurt, blah, blah, blah, can’t get this song out of my head, blah, blah, blah, trees, blah, blah, blah, animal, blah, blah, blah, hungry/thristy, blah, blah, blah, met a kind stranger, blah, blah, blah, sexy man, blah, blah, blah, I stink, blah blah, blah, I really stink, blah, blah, blah, burn another book, blah, blah, blah, strangers gave me a ride, blah, blah, blah, too much snow must detour, blah, blah, blah, I’m broke and want a Snapple lemonade, blah, blah, blah, ex-husband is so supportive, blah, blah, blah, memories of mama, blah, blah, blah–I DID IT!

I don’t read erotica/romance, so I must also admit that it’s sad when I’m hoping for a sex scene to add a little spice to a book–especially a memoir. The really unfortunate part is that when I got one, I was sourly disappointed. That said, at about page 130 I started skipping around until, with an eye barely open, I found my face plastered to the final page. I read that page, closed the book and decided to move on with my reading life. Did I miss anything? Doubt it.

Wild Excerpt: Each day I felt as if I were looking up from the bottom of a deep well. But from that well, I set about becoming a solo wilderness trekker. And why not? I’d been so many things already. A loving wife and an adulteress. A beloved daughter who now spent holidays alone. An ambitious overachiever and aspiring writer who hopped from one meaningless job to the next while dabbling dangerously with drugs and sleeping with too many men. I was the granddaughter of a Pennsylvania coal miner, the daughter of a steelworker turned salesman. After my parents split up, I loved with my mother, brother, and sister in apartment complexes populated by single mothers and their kids. As a teen, I lived back-to-the-land style in the Minnesota northwoods in a house that didn’t have an indoor toilet, electricity, or running water. In spite of this, I’d become a high school cheerleader and homecoming queen, and then I went off to college and became a left-wing feminist campus radical.

But a woman who walks alone in the wilderness for eleven hundred miles? I’d never even anything like that before. I had nothing to lose by giving it a whirl.

strayed&oprahCheryl Strayed on Writing: I often recommend writing as a tool for self-discovery because it’s helped me so much. I use writing in different ways: I write as an artist but I also write when I’m just trying to work through something or make a tough decision. And I think, a lot of times, even people who aren’t writers will write in crisis. They’ll write in their journals after breaking up with someone, even though they haven’t written for two years. That’s because it’s a way to essentially practice your thoughts and see what’s there. Writing forces you to locate your clarity.

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You know, I think A Piece of Cake by Cupcake Brown would have been an excellent selection for Oprah’s Book Club–a crackhead turned lawyer? Tell me that’s not an inspiring memoir. Anyway, somebody better recommend something good for me to read soon–and not Oprah.

Happy reading, y’all.