Reading Resolution: “Lady Windermere’s Fan” by Oscar Wilde

18. A novel by a famous author, other than the one(s) they are best known for:
 Lady Windermere’s Fan by Oscar Wilde

List Progress: 17/25

In between chapters of the realistic, dour, painful Marriage of a Thousand Lies, I interspersed something a bit more cheerful with Lady Windermere’s Fan, a 1892 comedy play by Oscar Wilde himself. I have never read any Wilde, no The Importance of Being Earnest or The Picture of Dorian Gray, so I am coming into his body of work a bit sideways. As an introduction to this famous figure, Lady Windermere’s Fan is accessible, easily readable and engaging…and that’s about it. I can see how a lively cast could make this work sparkle, but on the page, I found myself fairly neutral towards it.

Lady Windermere’s Fan tells the story of a high-society young woman who is informed by the community gossips that her husband has been seen consorting with another woman. She reacts poorly to this news and makes hasty and drastic responses, while her husband and the other woman deal with their own web of secrets. The plot is fairly basic and linear, but it sets the stage for a lot of great wordplay and eloquent speeches. There was more drama than I anticipated, as some of the scenes do dig deep into Lady Windermere’s conflicted emotions and the pathos of all these secrets and lies. But the setting and the high-society position of all the characters undercuts the drama by making it all feel so frivolous.

I know that people come to Wilde for the wordcraft, and it is good, would probably be a ton of fun with some talented actors outfitted in lavish costumes. But sitting down and reading it was just okay. I’ll be sure to read Earnest or Dorian Gray before I finalize my opinion on Oscar Wilde, but it’s fairly neutral as is.

Would I Recommend It: Yes, but try to see it on stage first.

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Less than 3 days left to pre-order “The Traveling Triple-C Incorporeal Circus”!

We are in the final days of the Kickstarter for Atthis Arts’ Fall Catalog! Support the catalog and pre-order a lot of great books, including my upcoming novel The Traveling Triple-C Incorporeal Circus.

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Reading Resolution: “Marriage of a Thousand Lies” by SJ Sindu

4. A book written in South Asia: Marriage of a Thousand Lies by SJ Sindu

List Progress: 16/25

Indecision is tricky to write. Plot is almost always created by characters choosing things, committing to paths and seeing them to their end or switching to other paths when the first one doesn’t pan out. A character can be indecisive for a while, but eventually they need to choose something. Anything. If they don’t, you can end really strong individual character scenes, set in a wandering, repetitive, formless plot. Which is the trap that Marriage of the Thousand Lies, the 2017 novel by SJ Sindu, unfortunately falls into.

(On a quick side note, this is a bit of a cheat to use this book for the South Asian category; Sindu was born in Sri Lanka, but raised in Massachusetts, the same as protagonist Lucky. However, the book deals largely with Sri Lankan American culture and the immigrant experience, so I’m going to count it.)

The basic premise is that Lucky is a lesbian in a marriage of convenience with her gay male friend in order to live up to her parents’ expectations and be accepted in the local Tamil community. Her relatively comfortable balance is thrown off when her childhood best friend and first love Nisha announces her own upcoming marriage to a man. Lucky is torn between her commitment to her family that rejects her sexuality, her wish to be like her butch white lesbian friends who seemingly live out and proud without a care, and her hope that Nisha will choose her, which Nisha constantly goes back and forth on. The initial set-up is fascinating and richly portrayed, but then…nothing changes. Things happen to Lucky, things happen around Lucky, but she very rarely takes any real action. Nisha is even more indecisive, and it becomes difficult to care about characters who can never decide what they want.

Marriage of a Thousand Lies was a definite page turner, I found myself wanting to keep engaging with Lucky, but it became clear as the book entered the final third that there could be no truly satisfying ending. Part of that does feel very real and intentional; a lesbian living in a very homophobic family environment is unlikely to find any pat or tidy answers to her dilemmas. But part of it does also feel like a structural issue with the novel, where Lucky will occasionally immerse herself in distractions that come across as tangents, never to be returned to or mentioned once the main action of the subplot has passed. The book engages so much with messy emotions that it becomes messy itself.

Marriage of a Thousand Lies has a lot to offer, especially to young queer people navigating a second generation immigrant experience. With a few more drafts, I feel like this book could really shine, but Sindu isn’t quite there yet.

Would I Recommend It: Not really.

One week left to pre-order my debut novel, The Traveling Triple-C Incorporeal Circus!

A reminder that there is one week left to support Atthis Arts’ Fall Catalog on Kickstarter, and to pre-order my debut novel, the paranormal road trip story The Traveling Triple-C Incorporeal Circus.

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Incorporeal Circus

Triple-C is but one of the great offerings in Atthis Arts’ catalog and I hope that everyone enjoys reading this as much as I have enjoyed writing it!

 

Reading Resolution: “The Fellowship of the Ring” by J.R.R. Tolkien

19. A book we have lied about reading:
 The Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien

List Progress: 15/25

You know the look. The look in a geek’s eyes when they ask you if you’ve read something and you know exactly how the conversation will go if you say no. That moment when you have to decide, to lie or to endure a rambling retelling of an entire trilogy. I have often chosen to lie when it comes to The Fellowship of the Ring, the first installment of the famous Lord of the Rings trilogy. I’ve seen the film trilogy based on the books and it helped me fake my way through any conversation. It was easier to say “yes, I’ve read it” then “I tried and couldn’t get past how boring Tom Bombadil was”.

But now, some four hundred pages later, I can truthfully say that I’ve completed it. And I have to admit, it was a better ride than I had expected.

The Fellowship of the Ring, published in 1954, feels almost too big to talk about these days. The tropes set here have become such an industry standard and the movies are so well known in the public consciousness that it feels difficult to say anything that people haven’t already said. But I was happy to find some character beats and nuances here that felt like new additions to my mental concept of Fellowship: Aragorn’s indecision and unreadiness to be a leader, the differences between Merry and Pippin, the anti-dwarf prejudice in Lothlorien. I was excited to find things there that I didn’t expect and some that I actually preferred to the adaptations’ take on it.

I am still not sold on slower, indulgent sections like the Tom Bombadil sequence, but not nearly as frustrated as I was reading this as a younger woman. I have some legitimate issues with the pacing of the story and how Tolkien seems afraid of raw emotions, but I was able to get into the groove of the journey.

The one section that genuinely impressed me were the Mines of Moria. The atmosphere was so rich there, really painting that the Fellowship spent days in the darkness, eating there, sleeping there, with no escape from the dark and quiet. It was a genuinely immersive experience that the films were not able to give me, and that alone made any slogs worth it.

I am not rushing out to read the second installment, The Two Towers. But I can see picking it up in the next year, which was not something I expected to say. I thought I would reach the end and throw the book away from me. It’s nice to be surprised. And I won’t have to lie anymore.

Would I Recommend It: Yes.

Announcement: My first novel, “The Traveling Triple-C Incorporeal Circus”, will be published in May 2019

I am thrilled, absolutely thrilled, to share with you that my first novel, a paranormal road trip story titled The Traveling-Triple C Incorporeal Circus, is going to be published this upcoming spring, with indie publisher Atthis Arts.  This has been a long time coming and a lot of hard work and I cannot wait for the chance to share this.
(Cover art by Estee Chan.)

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Atthis Arts is holding a Kickstarter to launch their fall catalog, with my novel as one of the offerings. If you’d like to get early access to an e-book copy, a paperback, or even an exclusive signed hardcover, you can back the project and get the brand new novel when it hits the web in May of 2019! And while you’re there, check out the rest of the fall offerings from Atthis Arts.
Thank you all so much and I hope that everyone will enjoy reading my work as much as I enjoyed writing it.

Reading Resolution: “Stop Kiss” by Diana Son

21. A book we read in high school/college/law school and loved: Stop Kiss by Diana Son

List Progress: 14/25

I realized I was a bisexual woman midway through high school, and gradually came out in a fairly smooth way. I had already been participating in my school’s GSA, thinking of myself as a particularly engaged ally, and I had a fascination with literature involving gay men. But by the time I was in college, I had only engaged with a few pieces of writing that dealt with queer women (a special shout-out to Luna by Julie Anne Peters and Empress of the World by Sara Ryan, two great YA novels about queer young women). I came across the play Stop Kiss by Diana Son in a theater class and did some scene work from it, and was immediately hooked. This was the first lesbian play I had come across, and as such it will always have a special place in my heart. But reading it ten years after my freshman year of college, and twenty years after its 1998 debut, does it still hold up? Well, mostly.

(TW for homophobic violence.)

Stop Kiss is a relatively short play told out of chronological order, in a way that the back half of the story is essentially cut off and overlayed with the first half. It is a fascinating structure, which serves to distract from some of the shlockier elements of the story and gives the finale the one-two punch of showing the conclusion of the story right before showing the climax that comes in the middle. Looking at this piece as a formative element of my own writing development, it is the structural elements that jump out the most and have shaped the most of what I like about the theater as a medium. The story itself, however, is a bit more stock standard.

Sara and Callie are two late-twenties/early-thirties women living in New York in the 90’s and slowly falling in love while trying to sort out their identities and paths in life. The chronological mid-point of the story is the night of their first kiss. A man walks by them kissing in the early morning and heckles them; Sara shouts back and the man proceeds to beat her into a coma. The scene of the attack is thankfully never portrayed (and the attacker character never actually appears onstage), but the second half of the story picks up in the immediate aftermath, with Callie being interviewed by the police, witnesses recounting the attack, getting updates on Sara’s condition, ect. These scenes alternating is jarring, but in a powerful way, portraying the innocent development of love against the after effects of extreme violence. The first half of the story is unfortunately the stronger one, but both are quite strong and the structure keeps anything from being too cliche.

The characters are both of a very specific type, young professional women who don’t know where they are going later in their lives. Sara and Callie are very detailed and well-drawn, though the same cannot be said for any of the side or supporting characters. (The detective specifically is just there to pry exposition out of others.) But it’s their story and they carry it well. I have never seen Stop Kiss on stage, but I would be fascinated to see how the character progression works with this story told out of order.

If you can’t tell, my feelings about Stop Kiss are fairly scattered. It does not stand up as well as my nostalgia served it, but it is still a lovely play with some great structural elements. If you are ready to engage with a lot of homophobic violence in the text, it is a very strong play that does not trivialize what has happened and the impact of it on both women. Jump in and get ready to have a lot of feelings about love, life and identity.

Would I Recommend It: Absolutely.