The Name of the Wind: One Year Later

The Name of the Wind (Kingkiller Chronicle, #1)The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Just great storytelling… It takes fantasy and magic and makes them both new.

ONE YEAR LATER (almost to the day)…

I can’t believe my review of this book was so short! The reason for this update is to say that I still think about this book all the time and recommend it to everyone who is a Reader. I’m reading Game of Thrones right now and I’ve made note of some similarities in the tone of the two novels.

The major point that the first two books of the Kingkiller Chronicle have going for them over this first book of the Song of Ice and Fire, I think, is that Rothfuss’s tale is told from a single point of view. So it’s scope is much narrower, but the experience is richer. I fell under the spell of Kvothe’s story immediately.

And so will you.

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What Should I Do?

In the sort of epilogue to my October 2011 post from a couple days ago, I noted that Danielle had mentioned in an email that I should blog more. What’s interesting about that–and perhaps is the reason I am actually trying to write more rather than just feeling sorry myself and getting defensive–is that earlier that same day I had written the following list:

Here’s the list, in the order in which it was written:

  • Housekeeping
  • Cooking
  • Daddying
  • Playtime for Sean
  • Writing
  • Exercise
  • Reading
  • Sleeping
  • Caring for Cats
  • Playtime for Me
  • Eating
  • Shopping
  • Making Things

Is it absurd that I feel like I need to make a list of the things that are important in my life? It may seem that way, at first, but writing things down, even simple things, gives you a remarkable sense of clarity. As the productivity guru David Allen says, your brain is the worst possible place to try to store information. The brain is remarkably good at processing things at the subconscious level, at finding patterns, but it sucks as a hard drive.

I found that I’d gone into simple Reaction Mode. This is the opposite of what might be called ‘living mindfully’ or ‘living intentionally.’ My wife Danielle is in the Navy and she refers to this as ‘putting out fires.’ Because if you’re constantly reacting to some minor (or major) crisis, you can’t make any actual progress. How are you going to cook dinner if all your dishes are dirty? You’re not. You’re going to order a pizza.

Reaction mode feels like a sort of default setting in the human brain. Hungry? Find food. Tired? Sleep. Horny? Have sex. Need to club Ned for taking your meat? Find a big stick. In danger? RUN!

But eventually, after many thousands of years, somebody decided to build a house, and then a village, and then a city. And then we had to figure out a whole new way to live, a higher setting. The default imperative (Don’t die) was no longer enough.

And yet Reaction Mode remains attractive to a certain old part of our brains. Or my brain, at least. Especially when I’m feeling overwhelmed by life. It’s easy to just react. But I’m trying to break out of this mode. And part of that process is going to be writing about it here.

I hope.

October 2011

Well, that worked out great! As you can see from the almost ten months that have passed since my last post, life for me did not become any more accommodating with regard to the writing habit. It was all I could do just to keep up with my monthly six hundred words for Military Spouse Magazine (my frequent lateness in delivering those words is probably the reason they’ve decided to run me every other month in 2012).

Something very bad happened to me over the course of the past two years, and something very wonderful. First, because I believe in always hearing the good news first so that it won’t be tainted by the bad, the wonderful: I got to spend every day with Sean. I got hugs and kisses. I got the thumbs up sign when he liked something I made for dinner. And I got to learn how to be a dad.

There’s a part of becoming a parent that’s all instinct, what some refer to as ‘lizard brain stuff.’ That’s the part of us that wants to protect our children from All Bad Things. But the lizard brain is also the part that carries the programming for how we react to what I call Seananigans: the boundary-testing, the games. For me, the result of too many Seananigans in any one day is that I become The Bear. At a certain point, I just start roaring and throwing my weight around. (I feel it’s important to clarify here that I’m using metaphor.) This is usually when Sean does what Danielle refers to as ‘Poking the Bear.’ His reaction is not to become docile and eager to please; his reaction is to see if he can find a sharper stick. It usually ends with Sean in timeout—crying loudly enough for the neighbors to hear—and me exhausted in every possible way.

But I’m getting into the bad news part of this. Let me just finish the good news. The really good news is that I’ve gotten better at taming the bear.

I wrote the above last October, and it sat there untouched for eight months. Then Danielle reminded me that if I’m going to keep my website in my email signature, I probably ought to post something on it once in a while. So here we go.

The D-Word

As you can probably tell by how quiet it’s been around here, the past year has been … difficult. This year is perhaps going to be “difficulter,” but in a different way.

2011 is a Deployment Year, which means about half of my year is going to suck. The good news is, the best way for me to deal with all that suck is to write about it.

Freedom-A Review

FreedomFreedom by Jonathan Franzen
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I almost gave this five stars, but the widespread praise made me pull back a bit. I don’t want to be lumped in with the other reviewers who have been so quick to shout ‘genius!’ and ‘masterpiece!’ and ‘Oprah!’

But the fact is, I quite liked the book. You’re taken into this family drama and you just roll along with it. My only problem with it is that the hero of the book, if there is one, is Walter, and Walter seemed to me to be a crank. I liked his best friend Richard, and his (Walter’s) wife Patty a lot better. The son was almost unbearable. But still, thoroughly worth reading.

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Offline

After much fiddling, I’ve just discovered that I’d somehow uploaded a file named ‘index.html’ to my site which had screwed the redirect from thomaslitchford.com to thomaslitchford.com/blog. Apparently index.html overrides index.htm. Or just confuses the server? Hard to tell.

Anyway, anyone wondering what had happened to my site, there you have it. Things have been quiet, in any case. Motivation to blog is at an all-time low. Motivation to do much of anything, actually. All my energy goes to the wee one, which is bad for someone supposedly readying himself to apply for an MFA program.

On the plus side, I’ve discovered MI-5 on Netflix Watch Instantly…

The Last Samurai (No, Not That One)-A Review

The Last SamuraiThe Last Samurai by Helen DeWitt
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Let me start off by saying, because I’ll be posting this to my blog, that this book has nothing to do with the film starring Tom Cruise. The film was fine, I don’t have anything against it, but the stories could not be more different, except that they both have to do with Samurai, in one way or another.

Helen DeWitt put everything into this book. That’s not to say she tried to cram the whole world into 500 pages, it’s just to say that she put herself into this book. All of it. I have to believe that. The scope of it, the emotion, the stories–it must have taken everything she had.

It’s a wonderful book.

It’s a wonderful book about a boy and his mother and about genius and heroism and goodness. There’s also a fair amount of stuff in there about various languages and some mathematics and music, and some of it’s quite technical. But this should not dissuade you from reading it! You do not need to understand irregular Arabic verb forms to be utterly taken in by the tale she’s telling. And it’s completely satisfying.

A final word of advice if you have the book on your shelf and are thinking about cracking it open: after about 50 pages, you will want to know what else DeWitt has written, and you will Google her name and discover, to your dismay, that she has written only one other book and that this book is only available as an ebook on her website. Then you will find some interviews with her, or you will find her blog, and you will discover that she has not been treated kindly by the publishing biz. Don’t read these things. For weeks after I read that stuff, all I could hear in my head when I opened to my bookmark was the voice of the writer, Helen DeWitt, who has been beaten up by a business gone crazy in its death throes, and not the voice of her narrator.

Don’t let this happen to you. Read the book in full. Let it take you in. Then write a nice review of it, or buy it for a friend who likes a good story, or write a glowing letter to Ms. DeWitt thanking her for writing it.

It’s that good.

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Hurricane Danielle?

Danielle has gotten a storm named after her!
Danielle

It’s fully expected that this storm will strengthen into a hurricane, and then there will be many, many jokes about Hurricane Danielle around this house.

We’ll have to wait and see what, if any, impact this will have on her ship, but I’m sure her shipmates will also get a lot of mileage out of this.