Monday, February 28, 2011

Reader Seeks Comprehension

Herein lies my review of the latest Book Club selection Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk by David Sedaris. So basically if you haven’t finished it for Book Club yet, haven’t joined Book Club yet (Why on Earth wouldn’t you?! We’re super fun & laid back so it’s highly recommended that you do…but I digress…), or just plain haven’t finished this book for other reasons, stop reading this now because there will likely be spoilers throughout…

Okay, and now onto the review!

Right off the bat I can’t help but say, um, sorry but I don’t get it. I mean, I get it, all these moral and social lessons tossed at us through the interpretations of how specific animals might exist in a world that contains human-esque concerns, but I’m not really sure what its supposed to say. Is it supposed to say anything?

Maybe the best question is -- does a book have to speak to you for you to enjoy it? For me the black or white yes or no was definitely challenged by this collection of short beastly tales.

Generally speaking, I have to feel like the central characters, at least one or two of them in a collection of shorts like this, resonate with me in some way so I can feel a connection and take comfort in the end of the story (be it a happy or sad ending). I like to feel like I understand just where they are coming from. But in each short here, Sedaris tends to place the greatest emphasis on the “evil” or “rotten” characters and/or their traits so then through his twist of sarcastic phrasing we are to take the moral of the story from what that character didn’t say or do. So although I really enjoyed his ability to apply human qualities to the animals in question, I really didn’t like any of them.

In fact, I may never see an Irish setter or a gerbil the same way again. Not to mention a rabbit.

Because there was no moral message at the end of each story other than the one the reader could infer in their own way, these really weren’t fables but with only a couple humans even mentioned in the book they sure could fall in that category, loosely at best.

Although there was a level of fantasy inherent in that animals don’t talk or experience human issues, I only recall reading about one creature pulled purely from fantasy -- a unicorn. That kind of made me think these weren’t outright fairy tales either, just tales.

Disturbing, freakish, animal to represent human, tales.

I guess the reason I say I don’t get it is because I kind of always considered Sedaris more of a non-fiction writer. Am I wrong there? I thought most of his books were about his life and situations he was in growing up, so this one kind of took me aback. The writing was good though and he subtly wove some comic relief in throughout each story, usually through devices of sarcasm. Which was good because some of those illustrations were just downright disturbing and anything to break them up was a welcomed respite.

I finished it simply because it took me no more than about two full hours over 2 separate sittings to do so. Nothing wrong with a fast read but I just don’t feel particularly enriched for having gotten through the whole thing. Then again, it wasn’t an all out bad book either. Not by any means.

So you see why I say ‘I don’t get it’?

The pace was quick and I enjoyed the twists and turns within the stories so I’m likely to pick up more of his work to give it the old college try. I guess in my final assessment of “Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk” I’d have to say well written short stories overall, well developed characters through the dialogue, good details in the narrative, nightmare-inspiring artwork, and I’m not running out to pick up my own copy anytime soon.

Have you read it and just want to weigh in on the topic? Come on over and leave a comment on the Book Club Page!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

And Then Another Week Goes By…

How does one split focus?
I don’t need spectacles to tell me
When something is real
Or really fake.
The decisions in the day the
Places that I go
Are all a device to an end.
But what is the end?
What do I put the focus on
In order to see most clearly,
And when I choose, does everything else
Simply blur?
I prioritize and end up feeling
Like a cat on hot coals
I keep jumping.  Flailing.  Prickling.

The numbers keep spinning,
The clock keeps turning,
And then another week goes by.

Spinning into infinity a tornado,
Sharp curves, tunnel vision and
Chaos ensues.
The calm I force to wash over me
Is a device of alarm.
My panicked heart thumps
To the rhythm of a garbage truck
Or a car passing by
Or the hum of the computer fan.
I wake up to find the sheets thrown about
And the fun of the night before
Leaves little to grasp
Of what needs to be done.
Broke and happy,
Underworked and overstressed.

The days wind down and nothing gets done
But I have so much to do.
And then, another week, goes bye.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Is This Good For the Company?

It’s been a handful of years since I worked in the business world but last night while Matt and I talked about work and companies in general it hit me. There are solid reasons why I left the rat race to pursue the life of a starving artist but none are clearer than the way business is done in Corporate American society.

Last weekend we tossed on a classic favorite, Office Space, and although we laughed, that might have just been the five bottles of sake rearing their head because the real comedy, is that it’s serious (thanks Jason).

When Matt and I started broaching the subject about the life of a corporate sheep, er, uh, I mean, employee last night it hit me that, no matter what, every single boss everywhere is Lumberg. I suddenly realized that I never wanted to be Lumberg and that’s essentially the main reason I work alone. But it really doesn’t exempt me from anything.

I got to talking about just why every single boss is like Lumberg and realized that in all companies, yes mine included, there are really only ever three questions that need answering.

1. Can I do this?
2. How long ago can it be completed?
3. How much am I going to make?

Truthfully we talked through the entire Bruins game last night and no matter what "yeah, but[s]" we tried to throw out there, every single issue, success, question, and model in business ended up coming back to nothing more than answering those three questions.

I’m certainly guilty of it, even as an artist running my finishing business, because I need to be sure that it’s a job I can actually complete before I agree to doing it (#1), that I work quickly and efficiently so the homeowner can get their space back again (#2) and of course that I make enough to cover materials plus my time and labor (and a profit never hurts of course) (#3). Anything else discussed with a homeowner or other industry professional will always go back to those three question’s answers.

For me that’s fine because I have no one to answer to other than myself and my clients right? If they see #3 and its too high a price #’s 1 & 2 don’t really matter anymore because I’m not doing the job. Period. Not to mention, because I work solo, I don’t have eight different bosses coming by to tell me about mistakes I made (#1) that are sure to cost the company time (#2) and money (#3).

But Matt does.

Matt has someone he needs to answer to at all times in his job. Well, he has only one boss, but sometimes with the pressure it sounds like he is under on a daily basis it might as well be eight.

So what does that mean for Matt? I suppose that if he goes into his job with the knowledge that, no matter what, his boss, co-workers, employees (and even himself!), are trying to answer those questions at every turn he might be able to approach work from a different angle. Maybe not but at least he can try to laugh about any and all situations that arise because regardless of the drama, it’s always all about three little answers.

He said he wants to get the questions printed as a poster. I can only assume he would like to hang it in his office in an attempt to passive-aggressively annoy his boss.

Of course by doing that he could get fired and then he’s certainly not making very much is he (#3)?

Then again, it would mean channeling his inner Peter (the character in the movie that every employee longs to be at one time or another) and then he might just not care anymore (bye-bye #'s 1 & 2!).

I’m thinking of getting it printed up on a tee shirt for him for Valentine’s Day. I’m just trying to figure out the best header to go above the questions, for descriptive purposes of course.

Luckily my printing it isn’t a business or else I’d have to answer those three questions before I could even come up with a header.