Thoughts on second person narrative.

I just read the book Often I Am Happy by Jens Christian Grøndahl, which is written in a combination of second and first person. Overall, the narrative is in second, as the narrator is the also the main character, writing down her thoughts to her long-deceased friend, Anna.

Writing a book in second person and making it work can be tricky. But as the reader I can get confused as to my role. Am I supposed to believe that I’m reading an old woman’s journal that I stumbled onto, intruding into her private thoughts, or am I taking on the role of Anna myself? The old woman even acknowledges the absurdity of talking to her dead friend, that Anna probably can’t hear what she’s thinking. Still, am I supposed to stand in for her friend?

I would say not in this case, but it wouldn’t be the first time that I’ve had to take on another role than just “reader” (or the more pretentious “dear reader” that I’ve read far too often) when reading a second person narrative. What sticks out in my memory are the Choose Your Own Adventure books that I read as a child during the eighties. They try to personalize the books in a way by not ascribing certain character traits to the reader throughout the writing itself. However, every book was illustrated, including sometimes a detailed depiction of “You” as the character in the book. Apparently when I’m taking on the role of a hero of the old west, I’m a blond cowgirl. I suppose this softens the blow when something bad happens to the character; I kept losing and ultimately getting killed by Native Americans, and it would probably be less traumatic to a child to see a picture of the poor cowgirl getting the arrow in her belly as opposed to a picture of myself.

Anna died tragically too, in a skiing accident, but I didn’t experience her life through her perspective. The intent is different here than a children’s “gamebook.” It’s really about the life of her friend Ellinor. By addressing her friend we learn of Ellinor’s thoughts on their relationship as well as other relationships throughout her life, and what they mean to her. By writing in a second-person narrative Grøndahl makes these thoughts even more intimate.

As I said, writing an entire book in second person can be tricky but it can be pulled off well. For whatever reason—letting ourselves into a person’s innermost thoughts as they re-examine their life, or taking on a character in an adventure game—if it is done well, the experience can be rewarding… well, except for that poor cowgirl I kept getting killed.

By the way, you’ll notice that this isn’t a full book review. I borrowed Often I Am Happy from the library in order to review it, but I didn’t feel the strong urge yet to do so. This is the second new book I read since I put my reviews on hiatus with the intent on reviewing it. Am I going through a dry spell? At least this time I got a topic for a blog post out of it. I’ll just say that the book was a little right-wing for my taste but well-written anyway.


Book reviews will be on hold for a little while; consumerism versus creativity.

Officially starting today I changed positions at my job. I am no longer what is called the “operations supervisor.” Instead I have a new or rare position in the company called something like “Freight Area Supervisor.” In other words, I oversee the freight flow process for the store, working with the early morning stock crew as well as coordinating with management and maintaining the receiving area blah blah blah let’s be honest I took the job because it’s a lot more money. And from my understanding the vice president of the company invented the position because of how good I am in working the back room. At least, that’s the story I heard. In any case, it’s a rare position and management wanted me back there because I’m damn good at it.

What does that have to do with book reviews? I’m still getting used to the position. Even though it officially started today I began work trying to clean up the back room this past Thursday, ultimately working a 14 hour shift. I got sore in muscles that I forgot I had. I ended up only going for three hours the next day. I had got a book to read this past weekend but I spent more time vegging in front of my computer watching Babylon 5 while I tried to recover. Then, of course chores around the apartment started backing up and I had a ton of stuff to do. Even as I write this, I have several dirty dishes piled up in my kitchen that need addressing.

On top of it all I’m scheduled to go into work earlier than I have been, and in fact scheduled ten hours overtime for the week. We’ll see how that pans out, but the main point is that I’m getting used to my new job. I want to go back to book reviews, but I don’t want to make promises as to when.

Besides, I have other things that I want to do, or rather, get back into doing outside of work. Yesterday, when I was feeling a little better, I drove out to a beach near me and walked out to one of my favorite spots when I need to clean my head, a specific rock down by the water away from the beach itself. I went there with the intent to think through a dilemma I had built for myself. I won’t bother detailing that or my conclusions on it here as they aren’t relevant but another, important thought occurred to me. I knew that I’ve been slacking off for a long time now. As you can see I haven’t been blogging much over the past several months aside from book reviews and the occasional, boring thought. I haven’t done any serious writing in a while. Other habits have gone by the wayside such as jogging or practicing guitar.

I have tried to better myself through podcasts covering current events, science and culture, reading more “intellectual” material and watching more “artistic” and culturally relevant movies.But was I really becoming a better person as a result? I thought back to a YouTube video that I watched recently by The Count of the Belfry Network and the Goth talk podcast Cemetery Confessions. During his discussion on “What is Goth?” he brought up the point of how we have become a consumer culture, where we consume more than we create. Being aware of the world is all well and good, but what is the point of consuming knowledge without doing anything with it?

I felt that I was at a crossroads—yes, I know, cliché and melodramatic, but that’s how I felt nonetheless. Was I going to give in and give up on writing and to a lesser degree, music, and just become a consumer? Would I become the type of person who would come home from work, crack open a beer, and watch television until bedtime? Or would I be come a creator? Would I return to writing and this time, in full force? Would I eschew some of my pastimes in favor of more disciplined work, despite the extra work I’m taking on at my full-time job?

I’m not placing a value judgement on either choice. I know that the latter option sounds more “respectable” but I honestly wouldn’t have a problem with going either way. What it boils down to is which type of person am I? The endless consumer or the desperate creator?

I would like to think that by this point, over seven hundred words into this blog post, the answer has become obvious. I don’t feel guilty over “slacking” off over the past year. It may have just been something that I needed. And sure, I may need to relax sometimes. But I need to create.

Although, first, I really need to do those dishes. There’s little insects crawling around on my kitchen counter.

Catching up on some reading, will resume regular reviews this week.

As regular readers may have noticed I didn’t get around to a book review last week, either. I had intentionally skipped the previous week’s review so I could try to get caught up on some other reading. I ended up also borrowing the fifth book of My Struggle by Karl Ove Knausgaard. At over six hundred pages it was an undertaking, but that still isn’t something I have difficulty reading over a weekend. But other things came up and I wasn’t able to finish it until just a few minutes ago.

I’m not going to review Knausgaard’s book. It’s a large, intimidating work and besides,  I wouldn’t feel comfortable reviewing it until the sixth book comes out in English so I can read it anyway. It’s not six books in a series of novels but rather a novel so long that it’s split up into six books. I highly recommend it, but I won’t list my thoughts here… at least not yet, anyway.

I did borrow another book, Moshi Moshi by Banana Yoshimoto in order to review it tomorrow, or possibly Tuesday. I probably won’t get to read it until tomorrow. I still have all those back issues of magazines which I subscribe to that I haven’t read yet. I’m going to try to get at least some of those later today. Right now I want to try some fiction writing of my own, which I haven’t done in a while. I haven’t abandoned the centaur idea, but have settled on a form with which to tell that story. But today I’m going to just try a writing exercise in order to get back into the groove of things.

Am I just wasting my time?

It seems like the only time I have inspiration to write for this blog anymore is when I have a book review. Am I totally devoid of ideas now? Has the well dried up? Is this just a temporary slump? Or am I just getting lazy?

Some regular readers of mine may remember that a few weeks ago I became very ill with food poisoning. I spent much of that weekend in bed, not to mention returning to it after coming home from work for several days afterwards. During that time I did very little productively, aside from writing one blog post as to why I wasn’t writing for a while. I watched television but very little else. I didn’t even bother catching up on podcasts—I instead unsubscribed several of the more “intellectual” ones that I was up to that point listening to on a regular basis.

I realized that there was a lot of more “intellectual” activities of mine… or at least, things that I deemed as such—that felt more like work than pleasure. It wouldn’t be so bad if I felt like I was getting anything out of them. Have I hit some sort of brick wall in my life when I don’t care to expand my horizons anymore? I still keep my toe in the water, as it were, with some podcasts I listen to and some news sites and blogs that I read. But I feel like I’m getting to the point in my life when I would rather enjoy myself through entertainment than learn some trivial thing that I won’t ever use.

I know that looks. You might be thinking that I never know when I might put some of this knowledge to use, especially if I ever do get a job along the lines of my degree (an ever decreasing possibility at this point), start selling screenplays or go back for my master’s degree. I might just be getting lazy and that I’m looking for entertainment than intelligence in the things that I do.

You might be right. But then, is that so bad? Should I stop trying? Should I give up—or perhaps, depending on how you look at it, give in? My writing certainly has improved over the years that I kept up this blog, especially when I kept at it regularly. But in the last few months I fell into a sort of slump. Is this a sign that I’m no longer viable?

Then again, it could just be a sign that I needed to take a break. Perhaps I was overexerting myself. And in any case, that could be true. I could dedicate this blog to just one or two book reviews a week for a while (I don’t want to give up entirely). Then, after a month or two I see if I feel like I want to continue with writing in general, or at least this blog. I know that I’ve already been inactive for a few weeks now, and before that my postings were erratic. But I think I need some sort of change.

This has been a hard issue for me to face. It could be part of that whole “self-discovery” kick I started back in August. I didn’t want to feel like a lazy loser. Then again, I don’t want to feel like a charlatan who’s wasting his own time lying to himself. A few years ago I need a month off after completing an album for the RPM Challenge. Maybe it’s time I do that again.

Another speed run in blogging.

I really want to go to bed on time tonight. I slacked off too much today and I’m just now getting to writing my blog post. So let’s see how many words I can do in ten minutes. The only problem is that I’m looking at a computer screen, which research shows keeps one awake for a while. If I had time I would open another tab on my browser and conduct that research and insert a link somewhere. Or maybe I wouldn’t—I’m not sure I care enough anyway. That story’s been out for a while now.

I didn’t get enough sleep last night as stress kept me awake until around midnight. Today I had a lot of stress at work which seemed to have the opposite effect. I’m just worn out. I probably should have just gone to bed earlier. Remembering that I skipped blogging yesterday kept me up until I could think of a topic. Alas, as you can see, I haven’t.

I also want to make sure that I get enough sleep as I’m going to the club in Portland tomorrow. (Note to self: look into getting an E-ZPass.) I can afford to go and have a beer or two but I can’t afford to stay another night in a hotel. I probably could if I didn’t have so much credit card debt or if I didn’t owe more money to the dentist right now. Of course, it’s still an option if I really can’t drive home, but I want to avoid it. Does this mean I shouldn’t go if I can’t afford a hotel stay? I never thought of it that way. It sounds practical. But in this case I’m not so sure that practicality applies.

If I haven’t lost fellow WordPress bloggers, I have a question for you. Recently they revamped their “Edit Post” screen again. Fine, but I’m noticing that when I get to the bottom of the screen my web browser isn’t automatically scrolling down. That means that I have to keep scrolling when I get to the next line or just trust what I’m writing without having to look at it. Is anybody else having this problem? I’m using Mozilla Firefox. I haven’t tried using Microsoft Edge yet.

That’s all of the time that I’m going to give myself tonight. It’s not a bad word count. I just wish I could have thought of content better. But hey, these speed runs are probably good exercise for something. Aren’t they?

I’m changing the way I’m approaching this new project about centaurs.

I’m strongly considering changing my approach to this centaur story that I’ve been working on lately. I still have a great concept (no, I won’t divulge it fully) and there’s a lot of humor that I could infuse into the writing. However, I don’t think that a screenplay is the way to go with this. A good concept doesn’t necessarily carry over a ninety-page script. Looking at the outline I made I have a few too many vague plot points that only act as padding. Perhaps I could have rushed it—I have a tendency to do that—but I don’t know if I could come up with anything better. There are too many parts where it felt like I have point A and point B, but extra points in between.

I’m going to try this as a short story instead. Who knows—maybe working on it this way will give me ideas on how to make the screenplay better. Still, I think I want to try this more as a prose piece. I also want to keep it concise. Like I said, I have a great concept, and there are a few solid points in the outline. Besides, while I have a few funny ideas here and there, I’m not a comedy writer. I don’t know if I keep the laughs going.

A part of me feels bad about this, like I’m abandoning the project. I have to remind myself that I’m not, in fact far from it—I’m simply adjusting the project into something else. If anything, I can think of this as part of the drafting process. And I’m not abandoning the other screenplay. When I started that one my initial thought was to do something more along the lines of my college degree. I still have that goal. And there will be more screenplays. But sometimes a particular project isn’t working out, and you have to either adjust the project to make it work or abandon it completely. I’m hoping for the former option with the Centaur story.

I have another shift in my approach planned, and this has to do more with writing in general. I still intend on writing on this blog six days a week. I know I haven’t been good about that over the past few months but life has settled down for me lately. I’m still planning on doing my Monday Book Reviews, as they are enjoyable and seem popular. (Although I should note that I may have to delay next week’s review again.) But as far as my creative work is concerned, I look back and realize that I’ve been generally more productive if I focused most of the work on the weekends.

Lately my intended routine is to write after I get home from work and enjoy my time off on weekends. However, I keep losing focus or I’m too tired to work on writing on weekday afternoons. I get distracted and come up with excuses for not getting anything done. I’m going to now try working more on the weekends but with some other writing sessions throughout the week. I don’t want to only writing two days a week. That could be disastrous to the writing quality, not to mention that it would take longer to get something done.

Then I could spend more time throughout the week relaxing after work instead of cramming all of my entertainment on the weekends. I recently listened to an episode of the podcast Hidden Brain that dealt with tunnel vision and focusing so much on a life’s problem that other aspects of life fall by the wayside. I had to wonder if that’s why I wasn’t getting anything done. I was stressing so much over how little I was doing I was making it harder to concentrate on doing it. Having the weekends off completely should come once I have a full-time writing job. Besides, why should I dread writing on the weekends? Isn’t writing something that I’m supposed to enjoy doing?

I have returned to writing; I also started dancing in public.

Here I am again, trying to get back in the habit of writing every day. I thought I would during February while I was working on the album that things didn’t quite work out that way. Not only was I busy with the album I had a few other things going on in my life. I wasn’t busy flat-out across the whole month, but I was distracted enough from any sort of writing that I started to get lazy.

But now I’m starting to get back into the swing of things again. Unfortunately I had to leave my apartment and go to a coffee shop just to write this blog post. It’s strange how crowd and traffic noise in the background while I’m writing at a table outside doesn’t bother me, but the occasional squeal of a child and her mother’s response in the apartment does. Maybe it’s the apprehension; I’m bothered more by waiting for one of them to say or do something whereas in Market Square the noise is constant. It could just be that I wanted a change of scenery and I was just trying to give myself an excuse. Whatever—it’s a nice night. Once I get back into the groove of writing I hope I won’t find too many distractions at home to get away from.

Another thing I started getting back into doing this week is jogging. I let that go for a few months because of the weather. I toyed with joining a gym for a few months but couldn’t quite swing the membership fees this season. I’m hoping that returning to regular exercise would keep my energy up throughout the week. That should help me focus on any creative pursuits, such as the screenplay. (Fatigue has been an issue with working on it in recent months.) My primary incentive for jogging again is much more vain, however. I started going to dance parties and goth nights in Portland, and I want to be able to fit into some of the outfits that I got over the holidays. I let myself go a little lately, and I need to tone a bit.

While I was on vacation last week I discovered that there is indeed a life outside of my apartment. Aside from a few bars and restaurants around here I rarely go out anymore after work. I went to a post-punk dance party at a bar in Portland on Monday and connected already with some of the people from the local goth scene there. I also went to a poetry open mic at a local bookstore, which I didn’t realize was happening. I can’t afford to go out every night, but I can’t afford to stay at home and vegetate, either. I thought I was getting culture by sitting at home reading or watching movies (and not just light, fluffy stuff, mind you) all the time. I can still do these things, but I need to find time and actually go out among people.

It was weird. People actually came up to me and wanted to get to know me at the goth club on Friday. I was coerced into getting onto the dance floor and actually dance… in public. To a Nick Cave song. I think this might become my regular Friday outing. It doesn’t hurt that the Portland Museum of Art is free on Friday nights. But I can’t go to my favorite pizza place and eat three slices of cheese when I go up that way anymore… at least not when I’m wearing skinny jeans.