November 10, 2015

Isn't Life Strange?

This post started off as a word. An idea- content. In my mind it started to grow into a tweet, sprang some arms and legs, maybe a heart and almost grew into a Facebook status. But somewhere in its fetal zygote state it demanded more. Put on some music it said, sit with me and gestate; let's see if you can give me birth.

I had no idea what to expect. I was tired when I started. Getting over a cold can leave you flat, like you've spent all of your energy lifting heavy things off your flattened body- houses, trees, trucks and vans come to mind. But that wasn't my day, heavy had nothing to do with it.

Today was easy and light. The weight of my sickness was more like a feather I simply blew off. So why am I so tried? It went like this:

Woke up late(ish) past eight. The girls tired and groggy left us alone for the most part. Gone are the days of their constant need for attention. Upon waking up we decided to meet some friends for coffee at the park, so we got on our bikes and rode beneath the clear blue sky toward the ocean.

We decided to meet some friends for coffee at the park, so we got on our bikes and rode beneath the clear blue sky toward the ocean.

We decided to meet some friends for coffee at the park, so we got on our bikes and rode beneath the clear blue sky toward the ocean.

Sounds good enough to say three times. They rode their bikes too and our children played while we spoke about our lives and our jobs and our maids, until we realized it was time for lunch, so we moved a restaurant over and had margaritas and naan.

We rode home for a swim. I told my kids that I was proud of them for a variety of things, like falling and not making a big deal about it.  I yelled at them for being selfish assholes. I didn't use the word asshole, but wondered when I could use it for more effect.

I don't want them to be selfish assholes. (At this very moment I am listening to Dress (demo) by PJ Harvey and everything in the universe is flowing through my veins and my skin is gone and I'm not sure who is typing these words.)

After the swim, which was refreshing and quiet and necessary, the girls played on their own, while I read and slept and read and slept and dreamed and rejoiced, and read and slept until I was a groggy rested blob of self. After crawling out of bed....

I hugged and tickled the girls, told them I loved them and yelled at them for yelling at each other. I felt foolish and stupid, but then lost myself in the book about people who break their way out of stone.

After dinner we put the girls to sleep and decided to write this rambling post instead of a Facebook status. I'm still pretending like you care and that sharing these moments clothed in these word matters for some reason. 

I hope you might read them- old friend from high school, uncle, co-worker, friend, random twitter follower, ex-girlfriend, father- and you might shake your head and think- Man! Jabiz is weird. These words might remind you of why you care about me in any way that you might now or might have in the past.

You might think as you skim your social network (Your thumb scrolling all our lives into an endless feed of news stories, cat videos and pictures of the primate genocide) that- This is something, not sure what it is. It is not exceptionally well written or even proofread, but it appears he has chosen to smear some thoughts on my ethereal cyberwall. It might not be much, but.....

This was a day and I lived it and these words are a testament to that living. There has to be value in that.

Now, I 'm gonna grab a glass of red wine, slink into bed and watch Fargo. I haven't run in a few days or worked on my novel. I have been sick I tell myself. That is a good excuse. I have been living. I hope that is enough. I have a race in a few weeks and my draft is due soon.

I have never been good at goals. But sleeping, reading, yelling, swimming, These things I can do.

In closing, when I was twelve years old, I walked into Supercuts and said I want this haircut please:

Now at forty one, I hope to see something like this in the mirror by months end:

Isn't life strange?

October 19, 2015

Purity- Franzen

It's important sometimes to read a novel in a vacuum. Because when we attach too much weight to other peoples' expectations or the entire Internet's views of a given author, then we could cloudy and murky up the author's actual work.

People, for some reason, either love or hate Jonathan Franzen. Yes, it is well known that he made waves when he called Edith Wharton ugly; he's known for hating the internet, and he gets a lot of shit for being a popular, domineering, overly-hyped white male. I get it, he is a lightening rod for many peoples' issues.

But what can I say? I like his work. I like his pretentious, bloated, trying-too-hard prose There is room for it in my literary diet and I enjoy the sensation of being stuffed when I consume one of his novels. Sure there is some indigestion with some of his lines, and most often his characters leave me a bit gassy, but over all, reading his work makes me feel like I went to a fancy restaurant where everyone involved was trying their best to give me a good experience. From sous chef to the sommelier, it's all hands on deck with a Franzen novel.

This post isn't meant to be an official review, because to be honest there are enough reviews of Purity on online, most of which are better written and more insightful than anything I could piece together here as my daughter plays with Lego.

Instead, I will try and weave together a few ideas that have been running rampant in my head for the last 563 pages.

Men and women are different, and although we may be trying to be what each gender needs the other to be, to make the other happy, we are often lost and confused and cause each other pain.

Franzen's characters, as per usual, are flawed and dysfunctional. To the point where they are depressed, homicidal and suicidal. I couldn't help but hate most of them for the same reasons I hate myself. The characters in Purity are all trying to be "good" but instead tend to find themselves wallowing in shame for acts they cannot seem to control.

They feel very human to me.

I am not sure that Franzen ever gets it right, as I don't think any writer ever can, when it comes to the "battle-of-sexes." I know many of my feminist female friends will cringe at the cliche characters of both genders, but what I respect is that he is trying to say something about what men and women want from each other.

And what he is saying is that we have no idea. Yes, we want equality and love and commitment, but what we tend to ignore is that all relationships are about a balancing of power, and this need for power, this equaling of the equation is not as simple as we hope. My showing the relationships between couples, men and men, women and women, mothers and sons, fathers and daughters, mothers and daughters and sons and fathers, Franzen shows us that balancing power in human relationships is a mess.

In the end, this book made me think. It frustrated the hell out of me. It entertained me and left me satisfied. What else can we expect from literature? I am not sure I would label it as a work of art, or that it has any long term staying power, at times it felt like a pulp novel focusing too much on the over-the-top plot, but this novel does what Franzen does best- this book forces us to look deeply into a mirror of our own (sexual, marital, parental, friendship and cyber) dysfunction and ask what the hell are we doing there? Who are we loving? Who are we hurting? How are we human?

If you hate Franzen then you will hate this book for sure, but if you can appreciate his work and his ambitious attempts to look at what it means to be a broken human being under a microscope for five hundred pages then give this one a read.

July 18, 2015

All This Life

Joshua Mohr's fifth novel, All This Life, begins in traffic. On the Golden Gate Bridge. In a car.  A father and a son. Both broken and searching for something to break the tedium of their lives. The father, recently divorced, ponders,"How can he tell his only son that being an adult is learning to live with your failures?"

A miraculous event during the traffic jam of this opening scene becomes the catalyst for the rest of this beautifully crafted and perfectly paced novel. The characters are trademark Mohr. Each one flawed in his/her own way, but this time around, each character is more vulnerable and likable because they each reflect our own insecurities about living in the modern age. Although the characters vary in age, gender and class, they are united in their yearning for the things that make life more than an endurance test. They each remind us of what it means to live.

By parading a cast of broken characters,  Mohr shows us the many ways that, "Everyone swims in the earth's dirty broth." This time, however, he also tenderly reveals moments of grace and hope.

While tackling a wide range of theme and topics like parenting, Twitter, relapsing and addiction, growing old,  or the gentrification of his beloved Mission District, Mohr operates with a deliberate and thoughtful prose which dare I say sounds like poetry.This is the kind of novel you will want to read in one sitting, knowing that you might start it from the beginning as soon as you finish.   

All This Life is Mohr at his best and most hopeful. I wish I had more to say about this remarkable novel, but I would rather you unpack it yourself. This book deserves your time and attention, if for no other reason that to remind you that, "We will always be lost. We are the walking wounded and there's love in our hearts."