A Level Two Killer: The Rules and the Reviews

tumblr_llrmnuseOJ1qzb5wzo1_1280For a month and a half I toiled away at Level 1 of The Grand Idiocy, traipsing through various galaxies, times, and parallel universes with Arthur Dent, occasionally heading off the Avonlea, Fairyland, and hanging out with alien teenagers on our own planet.  I got lost on a road to Middlemarch, but pulled back halfway through.  The thing is…it took some time.  Level 2 took a week!

The reason for the differences?  Points!

The Rules

The goal is to get to 100 points and to have killed a series.  A total of six Hitchhiker’s books were read to complete the series.  (I had read the first book before, but decided to re-read it to start off the series).  You get 5 points for each book you’ve read plus 10 x however many books are in a series that is killed.  (Thus: 85 points for Hitchhiker’s; 5 points for the remaining books; a total of 105, because somewhere along the way, I forgot how to add). For level 2, I read the 9th book in The Black Jewels collection to kill that mofo.  95 points off the bat.  Only 1 book additional to read in order to move to level 3.

The Reviews

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The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy Books 1 – 5 by Douglas Adams

In a word…excellent.  Wickedly quippy.  Effortlessly flippant.  Laugh-out-loud funny.  Surprisingly biting.  Offhandedly irreverent.  One hell of a ride.  Read these books!

“The ships hung in the sky in much the same way that bricks don’t.” – Douglas Adams The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy Book 6 by Eoin Colfer

In a word…gawd-awful.  In all the ways that Adams’ stories are brilliant, Colfer’s story is forced, unfunny, and taxing.  Too much time spent on people we don’t care about, and won’t care about.  The asides, which always delightful, were distracting.  The characters not entirely recognizable, most specifically, Arthur Dent.  It felt like someone trying to be someone else, which it was.  In the end, it felt like a commercial venture, and not a creative one.

I Am Number Four by Pittacus Lore

This story of an alien boy is something I picked up to read the last month of December, before jumping into the serial killer challenge in January.  However, an exhausting work schedule prevented me from reading much of it, so it became the first book I read for the serial killer challenge.  It’s a straight-forward, three-star read.  A good enough book to pass the time, but not a series I have to read RIGHT NOW! I’m interested enough in seeing all those numbers come together.

The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne M. Valente

Similar in tone to Douglas Adam’s, actually.  It’s unromantic in its approach to children, which I found surprisingly refreshing.  It’s fun, and it’s great to see a girl featured in an adventure story.  Also, I found the ending surprising and satisfying.  A well-told story, and I’m looking forward to the remainder of the series.

Anne of Green Gables by LM Montgomery

I’m not sure if there is a girl of my generation who didn’t absolutely fall for the Canadian Miniseries staring Megan Follows as Anne Shirley (BTW that “e” is most important!).  A friend gave me this book when I was younger, I think I was 10 or so?  I tried to read it, but my modern-self wasn’t ready for literature, yet.  So, picking it up again, I found the world of Avonlea on Prince Edward Island charming as though enveloped by a handmade quilt.  Coming of age stories are often regulated to boys, and that’s fine, because they’re quite good (see Boyhood for example).  Yet, as a girl, who watched these miniseries and relates to the book from that time frame, I really loved Anne’s story.  Once I complete the book series, I’m buying the whole damn thing on DVD!

number2_zpsa6c2b3d0Twilight’s Dawn by Anne Bishop

This book is the definition of, “meh”. I wrote a more thoughtful review of it here on Goodreads.

Dune Messiah by Frank Herbert

When I read Dune many years ago it felt like a perfect book to me.  So perfect I made a conscious decision not to read the rest of the series, because I didn’t want it to change how I felt about the first book.  Having read Dune Messiah now, I’m excited to read the rest of the series.  There is something hypnotizing about Herbert’s writing.  I feel as though I’m on spice when I read it.  For those who need a lot of action in their Sci Fi, this isn’t the book for you.  It’s all psychological, philosophical, metaphysical and intrigue.  I friggin’ loved it!

Now…on to level three, but I think I’m going to hop down that bunny trail leading back to Middlemarch first.

About Books

tumblr_llrmnuseOJ1qzb5wzo1_1280So I got it in my head this year, that I would set myself the goal of reading 90 books.  It’s roughly two books a week, and once upon a time I read three to four books a week.  Three to four weighty tombs in fact.  One to two books a week felt like a walk in the park. A pleasant walk in the park, in fact.  A walk in the park where I wouldn’t need suffer the bloviated pontification of insufferable philosophers (unless of course I want to read the bloviated pontification of insufferable philosophers), or the incomprehensible triple/quadruple negatives of one Aristotle (no worries here, I will never voluntarily read Aristotle).

The thing I didn’t take into account?  It’s no longer my “job” to read three to four books a week.  In fact my Job eats up around 50 hours a week of my time, leaving not so much time left for the reading. Therefore, I’ve named this venture …

The Grand Idiocy!

What prompted this flight of fancy?  This delving into the abyss of miss-laid ambition?  Did I purchase a time turner at some out of the way, funky pawn shop?  Trade in my duct-taped together Mazda Protege for a circa 80’s DeLorean?  Nope!  I joined a book club.  An online book club.  Through Goodreads…it’s a thing.

See they have these challenges…monthly and yearly.  This year’s challenge?  To become a serial killer.  At first thinking this meant crime drama, I felt in no way tempted to join when I innocently opened the link in You’ll Love This One’s discussion forum.  Them bastards are quiet tricksy and much more cleaverer than I gave them credit for.  This challenge only deals in mystery and crime if you want it to.  No, it’s a challenge that lets you go through, and close the loop on all those book series you’ve been reading, or thinking about reading, or never knew you wanted to read until you saw someone else’s book series.

Sitting down with pen, paper, computer, bookshelves, and various Amazon and Barnes and Noble “wish lists”, I came up with 23 series I wanted to complete (but really start), which I’m estimating at around 90 or so books.  As you read your books, you progress through levels, based on an elaborate points system (not really elaborate, unless you’re reading it hung over one Sunday morning).  To complete a level you need 100 points and have disemboweled at least one series.

Well, my friends, last night I completed my first level!  Yep, at 105 points, I am an official serial killer (I’m sure my mom always knew I had it in me).

The following titles were the first manuscripts I massacred (pronounced mass-a-creed ™Arlo Guthrie):

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy six book series (this included the sacrilegious 6th book written by most definitely not Douglas Adams – moment of silence).

And rounding out my points:  I Am Number Four; The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making; and Anne of Green Gables.

A summary of my thoughts and feelings on the books of level one is forth coming.

Tonight…it’s enough for me to stand here and proclaim:

Beluga Point 1B“With 14% of the year completed, I have completed 10% of my reading goal!”

Now, if you’ll excuse me?  I’m going to my room, where you will find me reading Dune Messiah.  G’night.

The Art of Theft and the Theft of Art

A Review and Hearty Recommendation of Austin Kleon’s Steal Like and Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative.

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The thing is, I was never an artist.  I was not artistic.  I was not creative.  Or, so, somewhere along the way, my own self perception was built to believe.  Maybe it’s because I can’t draw (and Lordy, I can’t draw!). But the other thing is, I am.  I’m imaginative and I am creative.  I have a million stories burning inside of me.  I look through the lens of my camera and light becomes my brush, and the people and things I photograph my canvas.  If I’m not creating, I feel empty.  So this year…2012…I’ve decided to dedicate to finding inspiration.

Thus enter Austin Kleon’s book, Steal Like an Artist.  The first thing you must know is that I read this book in less than a day.  Yes, it’s succinct, it’s visual as well as verbal, but it’s also a book where really if I had no self control, I would have highlighted every last word. 

Austin’s premise is simply, there’s nothing original.  All art, and therefore all artists steal from each other.  There is of course a good way and a bad way of going about this, one that’s authentic and one that is not.  “Hoarders collect indiscriminately, artist collect selectively.”  The basic line is we are an amalgam of our influences.  Using the metaphor of genetics (and math!), Austin explains how 1+1=3.  Therefore, we should immerse ourselves in those who inspire us, learn who inspired them, and immerse ourselves in them as well.  Austin quoting Andre Gide, “Everything that needs to be said has already been said.  But since no one was listening, everything must be said again.”  This reminds me of a common saying at Shimer College…there are no new questions.  Yet, we continue to ask them.

Sprinkled through-out the books are quotes from past and present minds (beginning with David Bowie, so you know I was smitten from the get-go), and Austin’s own artwork, my favorite of which is Open Road.  This reinforces Austin’s sentiment that learning from others is fundamental in growing ourselves.  Perhaps my favorite quote, as tweeted recently, “It’s not the book you start with, it’s the book that book leads you to.”

I didn’t go to Art College, so I didn’t know this was the way it was supposed to work (maybe they don’t teach this in art college either, I wouldn’t know, I have a business degree).  The best thing this book gave me is permission to be in awe of those who create awe-inspiring works, but it helped take away the paralysis that comes when I see/read/hear something that blows my mind.  I don’t know if I’ll ever get rid of the that small voice in the back of my head that says, but wait, you’re not an artist.  I do know that I’ll have a lot of fun discovering art while I try.