Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Android for literature

So I just got a new Samsung Galaxy S over the weekend and have been playing around with it like crazy, of course....... And it occurs to me soon enough that there are hardly any apps worth downloading that has anything to do with writing or heck, reading.

I know, I know - how much reading can you really do on these tiny screens? But surprisingly a lot, you might find. It has also been a while since most of my reading has been on screen - not only because the number of physical nooks I buy has dwindled (I still buy all my books for class and then more) but because there are just such a vast amount available to read.

I've also been observing that a lot of submission guidelines for magazines - especially the website oriented ones, obviously - indicate a preference for shorter pieces more suitable for the screen. So I'm actually wondering - why don't they go the full length and make an app? Do they exist and I just failed in finding it, or is it just not cost-efficient for the small number that will download it?

I guess I am just trying to think this through. People who buy Kindle are mostly all readers to start with. People who buy smartphones are not. Promote enough 'reading apps', and could we maybe even promote these mags as well? Get more people reading? Subscribing? Saving the world?

Bottom line, I would seriously love to have handy buttons to just click through and access all the lovely stories that simultaneously inspire me and make me despair. Ideomancer at www.ideomancer.com/wp has somewhat right idea. So dear readers, if you know of ways I can squeeze in more reading between waiting for transportation and awkard time slots between classes, please do let me know.

Oh, and do not get me started on the whole all tablets=iPads & all smartphones=iPhones thing. I see one more website that proudly declares "iPhone edition" for a mobile site... I'll.... I'll....

(The New Yorker does this. What...what am I supposes to SAY??)

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Meeting Margaret Atwood

Say, it's been 3 weeks since I trumpeted to the blog that I was gonna meet her. So what happened?

(All pictures in this post were taken by Prof J. Robert Lennon, 
my advisor and awesome professor who also has a wicked camera - unless otherwise noted.)

The first part was a giant reading, which I attended with many others and stood in an auditorium in awe at her. She is one of the most charismatic person I have met, and I was in love by the end of the night and telling anyone I met about it.  

She read from various sections, including poetry - and boy, can she read, let alone write. There was a cat died and gone to kitty heaven where he meets God in the form of a house cat and asks for his balls back, because he has woken up one day from a very bad dream and found them gone. There was a couple who appears in all three stories she will not write, always doing things masterfully or despairingly and always ending up having sex in chapter two. And just...just... go read her works, go youtube her, go stalk at her house (ok no, but attend her readings if you ever find the slightest chance to be able to do so.) 

At the end, she sang parts of a song from her newest book, and we sang the last verse with her. It was an amazing moment. 

Then the questions opened up; you might not be surprised at the number of people who began their questions with "I'm such a big fan/admirer of yours!" (if you guessed "almost all", you'd be right) or even "I love you." 

One question was - of course, of course - about social media and writing et al. Atwood mentions the O'Reilly presentation and the Death of the Author and the Publishing Pie (which I know has been making the rounds at blogs for a while now, but let me link it just in case; http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-6iMBf6Ddjk) and summed things from that presentation nicely. She also said something that will be the only thing in direct quotation about her because it's what I remember clearly as something she said: 

And you can't have books without authors. "You need authors to write the books." Pointing to her temple, "Gee, Margaret, that's profound." 

Other question began with a spoiler of her book, since it was along the lines of "Do you regret killing off the group of so_and_so?" So Atwood simply said, "We'll change the question to 'Do I regret anything'?" And the answer was something like (if my memory serves me right), "Authors of course are humans and we feel bad and we stay up all night agonizing over things..... But no, really, on killing off characters, we're quite evil." 

The second part was the Q&A session held in the lounge of our English department, in which a number of awestruck undergraduates who could click reply fast enough could attend and fire questions away at her. At first we were all a little shy and silent, but by the end we had to be forced away from her. 

And to each question, however vague, she gave a long answer with specific details. At one point we cracked jokes at the expense of adverbs (and Harry Potter, which apparently has been described by Stephen King as always doing things "angrily"?). 

My question was: "So I've seen your O'Reilly presentation" - hint hint zomg I'm ur fanz - "and do you think the changing format of literature will change literature itself? I mean, the novel itself is a pretty new form, compared to poetry which has been around for much longer, and..." 

Except, of course, it was a lot more incoherent than that, with me babbling and trying to make sense. What I was trying to say was, perfectly rehearsed in my mind, that if the printing press created the novel, will internet and digital print (read: kindle et al) create a new form of literature? The rise in popularity of flash fiction might be a result of that, although I don't know enough about the history of ff beyond what wikipedia tellme, or perhaps the twitter fiction is a better example.

She cut me off around at that point, and gave a long answer which I will attempt to recreate: 

Yes, the novel hasn't been around as long, but story telling always has been. It goes way back - way back beyond poetry, when everything was oral. It was a survival tactic back then. If Uncle Pete got eaten by crocodiles down in the river, the ones who could tell the story and thereby communicate, Don't go into the river, would survive longer than the ones who could not, and pass on the genes better. So the act of storytelling is really coded into us over countless years. It will probably stay with us for just as long in the future. 

She also talked of female heroines and of actually making a living out of writing. She talked about her education, the career path she was considering taking, the writing she did when she was seventeen and then nineteen. I 'm sure you can find all this from her website and other places, but let me just say: it's amazing hearing it from herself. I'll say it again, she's so charismatic. It's not like she's gesturing wildly or talking loudly. She just sits there and smiles and talks leisurely, and you can't help but fall in love with her. (And yes, I'm a girl.) 

Afterwards, after deliberating, I got up the courage to - well, first approach my advisor, who was supervising the session, and ask if it'd be all right to ask for autographs. He told me to go ahead, so I did and got it signed. I probably should have been more personal with her, but I was too awed to do anything other than meekly tell her my name when she asked me who it should be to. But I got my copy of The Handmaid's Tale signed (and a friend's, who showed up to the reading but couldn't attend the Q&A - mostly because she didn't know about it. The perks of being an English Major, you see). 

(This is the pic taken by my crappy webcam, with my name blurred out in a really pathetic attempt.
Moot point, because anyone who actually knows me real-life will recognize me the moment they read this...)

I did get up the courage to ask her about M.A in writing program at a certain university, because I saw that she was on the list of adjunct faculty. She answered that she had acted as a mentor for a couple years in the past for something-or-other but she wasn't anymore. I was completely crushed about that, because how amazing would it be to have her as a mentor? Not someone like her, but her. Yowza. 

I came away from this completely inspired and gearing up to write. After what is pretty much half a month, looking back now, do I feel the same? I have to said the inspiration fades as it tends to do in lazy college students who'll get off their bums only after the professor uses his most effective Glare, but writing this has made me inspired again. Getting off my butt....now. 

Tuesday, March 29, 2011


tomorrow in a lounge with probably something like less than twenty people and she's going to be looking at me and expecting questions and ohmygodhowdoIdothis.

I also probably just gave away my school completely blatantly, but oh well.

I know I haven't been keeping up with the wonderful crusaders lately and I am a horrible, horrible person.
But help me out, guys!

What should I ask her?? 

Also how do I tell her that I love her completely and utterly without getting a restraining order 

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Yet another award, but very special for me

The wonderful, wonderful Deborah Walker, who has given me the One Lovely Blod award! Thank you so much -- you are pretty close to the first friend I made in blogging, and you are always ready to leave a cheerful comment on my posts. I appreciate it more than you might think! =)

To accept it, I must do the following: post it on my blog along with a link to the person who sent it to me, pass it along to other blogs, and let them know about it!

So here are the lovely blogs that you should all visit! =)

Writes of Passage

Fireside Park 

Finding Meaning with Words

Raising Marshmallows 

Butterfly Mind 

My Writing Journey

Happy Writings, Everyone!

One wonderful person, one stylish award, and seven facts about me

In my post about my rejection - thank you so much for the support, by the way, it's really washed away any negativity that might've been left in me - a lovely person with a lovely blog that I enjoy each time I visit left a comment to cheer me right up. Sully's Scribbles, thank from the bottom of my heart for the Stylish Blogger award!

Now, to accept this award, I must do the following: thank and link back to the awesome person who gave me this award, state 7 things about myself, and pass it along to other awesome blogs.

So here are seven facts about me!

1. I am a very fluent bilingual bordering on trilingual. It's troublesome at times, because a story just won't make up its mind what language it wants to be in. I've had instances where I've used both languages, and gone back and had to translate one into the other.

2. I love to paint digitally. I'm no means good at it, of course, but I still insist on doing it all the time - kind of reminds of that other thing I do, where I type stories out and pretend they make sense to other people. Mostly all self-taught here, however. Observe: it is a beagle's nose I drew from a reference when doing a texture study.

3. I have thing for glasses and guys. I don't fall for guys with glasses - because that would be more than half the world's population - but when I find attractiveness goes up when a guy puts on glasses. I myself always insist on contacts when going outside, however.

4. Being a sensible and busy student (or without a kitchen and half-adequate cooking skills, more like), I live on yogurt.

5. I do bake, however.

6. I'm a bibliophile and a music addict. I can't walk or write (or breathe, it seems) without music, and I play eight instruments. I cannot sing to save my life.


A parody of “The Dangerous Shirt” by Alberto Rios

The toothbrush in my washroom is dangerous.
I shouldn't have put toothpaste on.

Because I have, I will brush my teeth.
If I brush my teeth, I will change into pajamas.

If I am in my pajamas, I will be drawn towards the bed,
The bed and not the desk – the bed,

Because if I am in my pajamas,
I will not want to study.

So if I get near the bed, that's it -
Shake your fist at me, because I will lie down.

And if I lie down, I will close my eyes.
I will close my eyes and fall asleep.

The danger of the toothbrush – of course,
Always, every moment, it is so obvious.

Now, enough about me! On to the lovely people who deserve this award!!
Please take the time to visit these fantastic blogs! =)

There's a Place I Dream About 

Every Other Writer Has a Blog... Why Can't I? 

Crime, Thriller, Horror and... One Bad Romance

Living On Earth

Literary Fiction

Alberta's Sefuty Chronicles

Thursday, March 3, 2011

The rejection of the week

Well, more of the semester, I suppose. =)

I dropped by my room today in middle of the day when I should have been in one of my lectures, having judiciously determined that a little food and rest were more beneficial to my health than sixty minutes in a lecture about the American Government. (You've all done something like that at least once, right??)

And you see I was punished for this, because when I checked my mailbox, sitting coyly in the middle was the SASE I'd sent along with three poems to a magazine at the end of last year. I tore it open as I waited for the elevator, but I guess I sort of knew what was inside; I hadn't received an email from them or anything, and really it's been so long that I'd almost thought that my submission must have gotten lost in the mail.

But no, it was your standard rejection letter: "However, at this time, we are unable to publish your work."

And while it hurts, of course it does, it's not my first and it will not be my last. It was also my first poetry submission - I'd only started writing it last fall - so I'll be taking this one in stride.

Ironically, when I arrived at work after that (you see I'm not only thoughtful of my physical needs, I'm also diligent when I need to be!), I was told by my editor that I would have to send a similar "Really do love the work, but not for us right now" letter - to someone I'd met, no less.

So today was a two-sided coin, to say the least. I reacted mostly by baking - and wouldn't you know it, I made the best sesame rolls I've ever made so far. If anyone wants to talk to me, I'll be over there humming "That's What Makes the World Go Round" from Disney's Sword in the Stone.

Monday, February 28, 2011

My horse for a Kindle!

First off a huge hello to my new followers and crusaders -- Hello! I've been deader than dead lately on this blog, and I'm sorry - this is what two jobs and maximum credits at a university will do to you.

But look, I has a kindle!

It's the new Kindle, 6" display, with 3G + wireless. Mmm.

I'll admit I was on the fence about this kindle and all - I'm still more of a bibliophile and tend of insist on paper books. Even at this moment I still have books from the library (which I should really get to and finish before returning, actually).

But the Kindle's got its neat little features, and I guess my favourite part would be that I'm allowed to carry more than one book without killing my back.

As for readability, it's not too bad. With text, it's easier to read without the words running off-screan; with pdf, it's easier to read formatted word and without words "breaking" (it happens when you write in a non-Latin alphabet-based language, I suppose, which is what I do).

Doc files are supposedly supported, according to the website, but I haven't been able to get it to work yet. It'd be nice to be able to put my drafts in and read them on the road sometimes.

Being of the Web 2.0 generation, of course, I actually thought their internet browser wasn't half bad.

I was expecting a text-only browser, so when images showed up not half bad - black and white, but pretty good considering how black and white displays from years ago looked! - I was pleasantly surprised. The 3G was definitely worth it in this case, I suppose.

One thing I disliked, however, was being unable to download pdf files from the browser. I don't know if that's Amazon trying to stop me from not buying books through their store or illegally downloading books, but I was trying to get works that are no longer copyrighted (Wordsworth, Pope, y'know, the good stuff) from Google books and failed miserably. I shall have to play around with it a bit more, I suppose, or learn to utilize the usb cable.

Just on a personal side, too, I'd have liked to be able to type in stuff. Wouldn't that be something?? I mean, the key pad on the kindle is far from ideal, but I'm such a sucker for being able to type wherever I want.

That's it for February, everyone. Happy Writings!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Exclamation: Pedro Paramo

Pedro Paramo (1955)
Juan Rulfo  

After I finished Pedro Paramo, all I wanted to do was put my head on the desk and cry.

Not because the ending is tragic – the entire story of Pedro Paramo is tragic – but because the writing filled me with the kind of despair that will probably never go away.

In this book, the reader has no clear idea who the protagonist is. Pedro Paramo is far too larger-than-life to be an approachable character. Father Renteria is far too circumventive to be empathized with. Susana, well, no reader or character can understand even half of what she’s thinking. Juan Preciado is the reader’s guide into this hell Rulfo has created, but his story is trivial compared to the suffering that fills this town. The ghosts are thrown at the readers, and we are expected to accept them without blinking an eye.

In fact, the reader has no clear idea of what is even happening in the book. Was that incest? (Probably.) Is he a ghost? (Most likely.) How did Pedro Paramo really die? (I’m with the death shown on the last two pages.)

Yet it works perfectly. It’s true that the reader gains a bigger revelation and thus a bigger catharsis with nonlinear stories, in which missing pieces come together slowly until the full picture is finally presented. The effort it takes to piece them together, perhaps, or the suspense of wondering about the missing pieces makes the ending all that much sweeter.

Yet such an effect is extremely hard to achieve, and nonlinear stories are always at the risk of being merely confusing, especially in such a murky setting with mixed characters as in Pedro Paramo. This book manages it, however, and it manages it brilliantly. The intrusions of Pedro Paramo’s story are smoothly delivered between Preciado’s stories, until the book becomes a true omnibus and the reader does not even feel the transition until it’s too late.

The book manages to deliver even incest smoothly, less as disgusting and more as darkly disturbing in its mix of the innocence and sin, as in the case of the couple-siblings Preciado encounters.

In short, perhaps, I loved Rulfo; and I hated him for writing what I want to write, long before I even realized that it was what I wanted to write, and for writing it far better than I could have written.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The CRUSADE badge: How to

I've seen a few comments here and there about how to put the badge up, etc., so I decided to put a How-to together. Just a warning upfront, I'm going to assume the reader doesn't know really much of anything about blogs, so some of you more tech-savvy people may find it slow-paced.

(But first a huge thanks to Rachel for promoting the badge on her post, and for organizing the CRUSADE in the first place!! It's brilliance itself, I tell you - and you all are equally crazy people for joining it and showing up in my blog for it!! I knew there was a reason I signed up! *grins*)

So the badges in question are these:

The trick is knowing which one to use. They look about the same, but one of them is actually a .png file with a transparent background. Keep in mind, also, that Internet Explorer has started supporting these transparent png files not that long ago; it might not work for older versions.

Now, if you have a white background for your blog - not the entire background, but the area where your texts show up and where you want the badge to show - you must use the RIGHT one.

If you have a color background, then you must use the LEFT one. It's the one with the transparent background, so that your background will show up around the badge and not in a square. It'll look pretty.

OR, if this all confuses and you don't mind having a white box around the badge, you can use the RIGHT one.

Once you've made your choice, here is how you put it up:

1. Click the badge you want to use above.

2.Right-click on the image, and choose Save Image As. Save it anywhere - desktop is usually a good choice. Click "Save".

3. Open your own blog. You will see "design" on the top left corner; click it, and you should be brought to a page that looks like the above. Your page may look different, depending on the layout you have chosen.

4. Decide where you will put your badge; most commonly, it'll be the sidebar. Click "Add a Gadget".

5. Find the "Picture" gadget, which looks like the above pic. Click it.

6. Fill out the information. You can put whatever you want; it would make sense to link to Rachel's post about the crusade. For the picture, choose "From your computer", click browse, find the badge picture you saved earlier, and click open. The badge pic should show up like above.

7. Click save.

8. It should show up in the list of gadgets as above.

That's all, folks! I have a cold right now and I wrote this in a rush because I have to go work out with my roommie soon, so if there are grave (or even little) things wrong with it, please tell me!! But hope this helped!

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Writerly Seclusion #2

Writerly Seclusion: the best places to write in.

Out of the spotlight.

The writer is both everywhere and nowhere in the story. That is, the story is undeniably all-writer, but the writer herself will not be in the story. The best stories are those where you listen to the story, not to the writer.

So, I say, on top of a street light is perfect place to write in. I can see the world below - and it's a beautiful world, a colorful world, lit by the lights that are actually right with me - but me myself isn't visible. As I shouldn't be.

(My first one is here: Under the bed)

Friday, February 11, 2011

The Crusade

First saw in Deborah Walker's blog post, and followed to Rach Writes' brilliant project. And of course, decided to jump in - because it does get lonely here, it does.

Here we go!

[Edit: A new shield, because Rach wanted a purple one =) ]

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Exclamation: Death Is Not An Option

death is not an option
Suzanne Rivecca

Rivecca is a Wallace Stegner Fellow in Creative Writing at Stanford University. She thanks Tobias Wolff in her acknowledgements. Now you know, like I did before starting to read her anthology of short stories.

Not that it matters. It's just a purely personal thing for me to fixate on that because I've been looking up MFA programs, and since the first story in the anthology features a smart-ass senior clearly geared towards English, the fact that she's a Stegner fellow just wouldn't get out my head throughout the entire anthology. But I digress.

(Also, for extra fun, look up Tablo.)

The other one thing I fixated on: Narration.

This anthology taught me that short stories rely so much on narration. Not that there aren't action-heavy, dialogue-heavy short stories that blow our minds. Not that narration-heavy short stories never go wrong. In writing there's never a way to it, no way of the world to follow. 

But the power of her stories comes from the narration, or at least so I felt. She showed me that worrying about the silliness of plot is silly. What's the one-sentence summary of the first story of the anthology, "Death Is Not An Option"? "A cynical girl from a devout Catholic school finally breaks down at farewell senior camp."

Oh, how quaint, you say. Oh, how plain. Then you read the story. And you're blushing scarlet, you're scratching furiously at that itch inside your temples because she has started it somewhere deep in your marrows, and you're shouting oh, how - how did she - oh, my god.

And it's all in the power of the narration.

Some gritty dialogues and characters with disturbing past and present also abound, but it's in that tautness of the narrator's voice, that internal monologue and revelation that actually interests the reader more than the action, that really shines in her stories.

Note:  I'm not really meaning to "review" these books, or to critique or even analyse them. My real purpose, actually, is to learn from these books. So I will be commenting more on the books' use of language and the characterization, etc., instead of from a literary point of view, and as something that I felt when I was reading. This is all personal stuff.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Exclamation: wait, why do I bother?

Shirley Jackson.

It's just like Shirley Jackson to knock me out with a two-page short story.

I have no words to add. Except that I threw my head back and barked mad the moment I finished its last sentence. Oh, and resolved to read this story every time before I edit an essay, to remind me of - what the story takes two pages to say.

Just read it.

Funnily enough, I read this just before a class started, in which we're reading Pedro Paramo by Juan Rulfo. And Pedro Paramo....well, let's just say when I finished it, I felt a shiver in my blood vessels, the same kind I felt when I finished As I Lay Dying by Faulkner.

Rulfo. Faulkner, Hamsun, Chin.....

I love you brilliant writers, and I hate you for writing what I wanted to write, long before I even realized that it's what I wanted to write.

Exclamation: Rock, Paper, Tiger

Rock, Paper, Tiger
Lisa Brackmann

One word: "Well-executed."

The writing is tight, the plot is tight. Its uniqueness derives from the strange setting: an Iraq War female veteran in an artistic community in China that may or may not get raided by the government any time, along with gaming and digital conspiracy thrown in.

(The story itself doesn't show this immediately. One of the wonderful things about this book is how it slowly unwraps and unwraps the whole picture. This, of course, is ruined by the book jacket that outright states the protagonist is an veteran. Good thing I have a habit of forgetting the synopsis as I go deeper into the book.)

I found the characters coming across very vibrant - despite some of the gritty themes, no character is wallowing or wailing - and none of them are stereotypical. Each has a distinct characteristic, that is both quirky and believable. Perhaps because of this, however, I also felt some of them might come across a bit flat, not being developed beyond the initial quirk that they show. Others, on the other hand, still leave you with a feeling you haven't met all their complicated sides only hinted at.

Most of all: the pace. Pacing is what I learned from this book. Nothing is explained, and until the "parlour scene" at the end of the book, the readers know very little about the background forces. But the action continues despite the lack of revelation and without losing the grip on its audience, and I find myself willing to go along without stopping and screeching "wait but who did this and why did they come and who are they, anyways??" because I can't wait to find out what the hell's going to happen next.

That's how action should be, how pacing should be.

Note:  I'm not really meaning to "review" these books, or to critique or even analyse them. My real purpose, actually, is to learn from these books. So I will be commenting more on the books' use of language and the characterization, etc., instead of from a literary point of view, and as something that I felt when I was reading. This is all personal stuff. 

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Writerly Seclusion

Writerly Seclusion: The Best Places to Write In.

Me, I have a special affinity for monsters under the bed. The closet kind never really affected me, but those out-of-this-world, mischievous, and tad bit evil creatures that grabbed at my ankles before I could jump into bed quickly? Well, they're the ones that got me writing, y'see - so it's only appropriate for me to intrude on them now, bringing all my writerly gears into their land and demanding inspiration from them. 

Where do your monsters live? 

Saturday, January 29, 2011

I'm a bibliophile. Of course. What I also love are notebooks, journals, diaries, and all those beautiful things that are meant to be written on.

What I dislike about the North American ones is their price. And quality. To be clear, I can get one of those beautifully antique, masterfully bound journals with their creamy pages - for prices much steeper than a three-hole, lined spiral notebooks. Yes, I'm being cheap, but I'm also a student, and I'm also painfully aware of the 1/10 prices over in Asia.

Of course, being the bibliophile (is it still bibliophile, to love notebooks?) that I am, I do end up buying those journals anyways. I have them stacked up for my diary that started more than ten years ago. But for class notes? The hallow places that hold my chicken scratch jottings of information on Milton, Dryden, Rochester, Rulfo, Carver? Three-hole, lined spiral notebook it is, and the ink will just have to seep through the paper.

So imagine my geeky surprise when I ran into these beautiful notebook that were barely three dollars, with pristine white paper thick enough to hold the bravest of ink in place:

Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you: the notebook made of banana leaf, and the notebook made of stone.

They were designed with green living in mind, of course, but just looking at their beauty (and their affordable price - luxury, for notebooks that get used up every other week by mad scribbles!)

I haven't written on them yet, but their surface is so smooth. I could sit for hours rubbing my face against the paper. I have principles regarding these things; when I buy sketchbooks, I stand there in the art supply store and rub my face against each one to determine the texture that I want. And these? These are just wonderful. The banana leaf one is stylized, looking more like recycled pages with the tan color and texturized surface, but it's a very cute design that fits this quirk.

The thing about the notebook made of stone, though - and this would come as common sense that still surprises you - is its heaviness. I grabbed two off the shelf immediately, and really felt its weight. It nearly did make me put it back, since I have enough things to carry around in my backpack, but just one isn't too bad. Still heavier than other notebooks, but not so much that you'd wonder just what these notebooks were made of.

Watch me become a holic of these things, then tear apart every off and online store to find them again when they are discontinued.

(Eco-friendly as well, of course, although I do have to think about a bit. Is using banana leaves and stones that much better than using trees? I imagine some, yes, but isn't it still using up nature and cause trouble if too many of those are used as well?)

Exclamation: The People Who Watched Her Pass By

The People Who Watched Her Pass By 
Scott Bradfield

According to reviews floating in the internet, some find this book disturbing. I picked it up because I had three minutes to spend in the library and the title was intriguing. After I finished it and looked at the reviews, I have to say that the references to pedophilia - which the author was almost comically explicit in not including in his plot - weren't the disturbing kind. Here's why.

I decided, very early on, that The People Who Watched Her Pass By was not meant to be realistic. It paints a picture of the inner crust of the so-called contemporary American society, and the picture is indeed real; but the characters, and the actions they take, are far from realistic.

First you have Salome Jensen, a very young girl who acts and thinks in a way that would make Zarathustra proud. Her words and actions are so mature, in fact, that I was actually convinced time had passed in the beginning of the novel and she was at least a young adult, until she corrected me and stayed at 3-5 years old throughout (she doesn't know for sure herself). She does things like going into the desert alone to attain higher awakening (or so it would seem) and taking care of herself backpacking on the road better than some adults, but she mostly passes people by in a most non-child-like manner, giving no real attention to these people.

And oh, what people she passes by. Daddy, who takes her from her home because she is "a perfect, beautiful little child with a fresh perspective on this sorry world of ours" and is even afraid of touching her foot. Many couples who take her in for few days and whom she leaves before they tire of her so that their meetings may be kept beautiful. Old men at laundromats who figure "universe takes things apart and puts them together again, which is perfectly fine if you're a piece of wood, but not so nice if you're a little girl trying to grow into a big one." Tim at Store 24 who wants to elope with her but similarly is too scared to even hold her hand. And where, just where to start with Mrs Mayhew.

All these characters are delightful, powerfully characteristic, and well-fleshed out - thus believable. Yet where would we see people, who actually act as these characters do? It's certainly within the realm of possibility - but not probable at all. So what does it all mean, as a story?

Salome, apparently, is meant to save society as well. Daddy starts off the first page of the novel with "it's precisely this sort of perspective [that is, hers] which may yet save us all from total eco-catastrophe and self-annihilation." Mrs Mayhew dives into belief that Sal is "a little girl who will condemn the sinners to eternal damnation and suffering." Salome comes out of the desert and back into the human world, the first person she sees tells her that means "this stupid world has one more chance." People arrive to revere her - that is, adults revere and want to keep her in a shrine. Keep her as a shrine. And why?

If I were writing a critical essay for a class, I'd be spewing words like "absurdity of modern life" in each paragraph. This time, though, I mostly enjoyed it because of the author's voice. Screw the literary/social significance. Forget about the plot for a moment. Any voice that can carry a reader through no distinctly related sequence of observations of 146 pages, has my admiration.

If you enjoyed books like Das Parfume by Suskind, this story may provide the same kind of surreal realism (yes, surreal realism) and the subtle discomforting wrongness about it all.