Saturday, September 29, 2012

The Perks of Being a Wallflower

By Stephen Chbosky

The Perks of Being a Wallflower is often heralded as the Catcher in the Rye of our generation. It's a cult classic among teenagers, and with the movie adaptation - written and directed by the author himself! - coming out this fall (starring the ever-wonderful Emma Watson), I thought I'd re-read it as a refresher before seeing the film! If anything, I liked it even more the second time around, with a few more years and experiences under my belt. Charlie's voice is simple and authentic, hovering alternatively somewhere between naive and jaded. He thinks just a little too much about the world around him, which causes him problems as a person but makes him a wonderful, perceptive narrator. Most adolescents (and adults thinking back on their adolescence!) will identify with some experience or feeling throughout the book, and that's what has earned it such a large and passionate following. The movie has been described as "nostalgic" and "life-affirming" and these two adjectives apply to the book as well. In keeping with my new blog initiative, I have written another poem for Perks (as it is affectionately called by fans). The most famous line from the book goes, "And in that moment, I swear we were infinite," and I couldn't help but take that as part of my inspiration.

There's a certain infinite quality
of the still lives immortalized
in photography; messy sprawling
jumbled relationships distilled
into their purest moments -
those clear, copacetic moments
when your soul is rushing soaring
swooping, buffeted by the tumult
of the nonstop motion of the world 
spinning and lives living, yet somehow
despite the chaos, you trust this moment enough 
to surrender to it, and in surrender 
a stillness wells within your soul, a quiet calmness
that spreds throughout your body
and fills your heart
and whispers,
"I feel infinite."

There's a certain wistful quality
to happy memories preserved 
in old photographs that makes me wish 
I could live in infinite observation 
of the moments they contain.
A wallflower - if you will - a witness
there to watch, to remember, to participate,
and when we're old or sad or we start to forget
those moments when we were together
and young and oh-so-alive,
it will be my privilege to remind us,
"We were there. We were happy.
And we were infinite."

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

The Return of Sherlock Holmes

By Arthur Conan Doyle

For today's post, I thought I'd try something new. The standard review format I've been relying on for the past couple years (certainly more sporadically this past year) has felt a little stale lately... whether from lack of readership or just from lack of my own inspiration, I'm not sure. Either way, I thought I might take a little more creative angle on the review thing. Instead of writing a review, I'll write a poem inspired by a few key passages that jumped out at me, or perhaps a particularly poignant scene or character... whatever most inspires me about what I just read. For today's book - The Return of Sherlock Holmes - that was the peculiar (as in both singular/unique and a little bit odd) dynamics of the friendship between Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson. Without further ado:

That oh-so-human warm flush
colours your cheeks with pleasure
you cannot/choose not/want not
to conceal; betrays your stoic
self-contained self-generated self-sufficient
pride; proves you to be not immune
(as we - some of us - never I - suspected)
to the spontaneous wonder which springs
from the awed, affectionate regard of a friend.
No, not quite the unfeeling machine
they believe you to be.
I know better. Of course.
I know you better; I have known
the softening of your features
that moves you to hide
your face your self from overexposure
(too raw is it, too unaccustomed
to exposure of any kind).
I have known the impulsive bow,
the irresistible (for you, for us) grin, and that
warm flush of colour oh-so-human
which accompany not the win alone, but
the intimate recognition.