That’s Interesting

Night Out at “She Kills Monsters”

My wife at She Kills Monsters before the show

My wife at She Kills Monsters before the show

We’ve been fans of the Rorschach Theater ever since we saw their performance of Neil Gaiman’s “Neverwhere.” The story/script itself drags a little in the middle but Rorschach blew me away with their fantastic staging. They not only used the floor, but the walls ALL THE WAY AROUND the theater truly giving it a feel of being in another world.  With the clever lighting and sound it was artistically magnificent.

So, when I heard they were doing a play called, “She Kills Monsters,” I thought it the perfect sort of play to go see.  As gamers, we’re familiar with Dungeons & Dragons and the idea of “serious theater” using D&D as a base caught my interest. The description of the play said:

It’s the 1990s in suburban Ohio and Tilly lives among the most fearsome creatures known to man: American high school students. She copes with the stress by creating an elaborate Dungeons & Dragons module where she plays out her fears and fantasies in a world she controls. When Tilly dies unexpectedly, her older sister Agnes has no choice but to run the gauntlet of this mysterious world, battling and befriending the strange and fantastic monsters her sister has created.

I would also add: And hoping for one last chance to connect with the sister she barely understood.

There is humor, adventure, and a collection of nostalgic 90s pop music, but She Kills Monsters has an added layer of emotional depth with demons both literal and figurative that we are afraid to face and afraid to share, even with those who love us most

Qui Nguyen has put together something that I love and collected a juxtaposition of grief and earnest soul-searching, with humor and “rollicking fantasy.” And small wonder that I was so thrilled with “She Kills Monsters.” Years ago, on a trip to New York City I visited a performance of a group called “Vampire Cowboys.” It was their Saturday Night Saloon series. For $5 I got to see several “serialized” plays, be entertained for about 2-3 hours, have as much Pabst Blue Ribbon as I could drink (as a note, I loathe PBR). But it was the best thing I had seen. Ever.

Nguyen is co-founder of “Vampire Cowboys.”

What books have stayed with you? My list.

These Books Are Hot
For a while the question of “What books have stayed with you?” was floating around on Facebook. Many of my both reader and writer friends indulged and it was fascinating to see what books from both childhood and adulthood resonated with them.  We all have those books we read that stick with us.  They aren’t necessarily our favorites; some of them we may not even like, but there was something in them, some truth that the author was saying that captured us, marked us, and left us subtly different than before. The books we write say much about authors.  I would argue the books we read say much much more.

And so, in no particular order, I give you my list:

1. Lord of the Flies – William Golding

I raged against the inequity the raw emotional stupidity of the boys and the helpless feeling of watching the characters I connected with (Piggy and Simon), succumb to the madness and violence. Even as an adult, thinking about the book makes me angry.

2. Nancy Drew/Hardy Boys

Who doesn’t love a good mystery with tenacious teens?  :)  I started as a very little girl with Scooby-Doo, moved to Nancy Drew as I grew older, and today have graduated to Veronica Mars.  It’s a clear line, I swear.

3. The White Dragon – Anne McCaffrey

The first fantasy book that I read as a child.  I LOVED it and dreamed of one day having my own Ruth to ride.

4. Candle in the Window – Christina Dodd

A capable, but not super-powered blind protagonist!  On my list for the obvious reason AND it’s a great read too!

5. A Rose in Winter – Kathleen E. Woodiwiss

Classic beauty-and-the-beast style romance.  One of my first historical romances.  I’ve been an avid reader of them ever since.

6. The Greek Myths – Robert Graves

I was far far far too young when I read this.  I adored the stories but didn’t quite understand everything that was going on.  If you ever meet me at a convention, ask me to tell you about “ravished.”

7. Tales from Shakespeare – Charles and Mary Lamb

My first introduction to Shakespeare ever. I fell in love with their book of retelling of the stories for children. When the time came and I actually was reading Shakespeare in class, it made it easier for me to really get into the plays.  Charles and Mary Lamb “cast themselves as messengers, almost evangelists, for the bard; they were translating the national genius for a new audience and bringing his message to a new generation.” In 1806.  The fact that it had such an impact on me says much about how well they did their job.

8. Uncanny X-Men during the Chris Claremont & John Byrne era (Phoenix Saga, Days of Future Past)

My first comic book and I stumbled into probably one of the greatest story arcs ever!  Small wonder that I have been a fan ever since.

9. Mules and Men – Zora Neale Hurston

I think like many young folks, we meet Zora Neale Hurston in class.  I couldn’t get enough. 🙂

10. Hoodoo–Conjuration–Witchcraft–Rootwork. 5 vols. – Harry Middleton Hyatt

Believe it or not, I found these volumes by accident!  I had just finished a course on folklore and been reading a lot by Hurston and other similar writers/collectors.  I was in that section of the University library and found these massive tomes.  Upon opening them, I found a treasure of oral narrative.

11. Belonging to Taylor – Kay Robbins (who writes as Kay Hooper)

I’ve read a lot of romance novels.  They’re like potato chips for me.  Light, entertaining, fun, and I can’t have just one.  This is the first one that I ever read that made me laugh out loud. It was wacky and zany and I fell in love with the characters.  The highest praise I can give this is that one day, I hope they make a movie from this book.

12. Nursery Rhymes and Tales, Their Origin and History- by Henry Bett

I don’t remember reading Dr. Seuss as a kid, or The Very Hungry Caterpillar.  What I remember, is nursery rhymes.  Lots of nursery rhymes and fairy tales. I still know the original melodies to many of them.

13. Arab Folktales – Inea Bushnaq

My very first introduction to printed Arab folktales.  The cadence and rhythm of the narration is well captured in the book.  I’ve lost 3 copies from loaning it to people.

14. A Darkness at Sethanon – Raymond E. Feist

My first epic fantasy as an “adult.” This is Book 3 in the Riftwar Saga.  I picked it up at an airport because of the cover.  The first time I tried to read it, I was too young and didn’t understand fully what was going on.  I went back to it later and was enraptured with the battles and warriors, with the magic and with the politics. Later on, I acquired Book 2 (Silverthorn) and Book 1 ( Magician) – in that order.  🙂

15. Birds of Prey – Gail Simone’s initial run

This is the first comic book series that I HAD TO OWN.  A trio of superheroes led by a woman in a wheelchair.  They love each other, eat good Chinese food, and battle their inner demons as well as the bad guys. I have hunted down every last issue.

Short Stories

When putting together this list, I found that there were almost as many short stories that stuck with me.  I remember unique details from them or they moved me emotionally.  Some are from childhood and some are more recent.  BUT, I had to share.  AND, more importantly, all of these are available for free so there is no excuse.  Take a look at them yourself:

  1. Flowers for Algernon – Daniel Keyes
  2. The Jumping Frog of Calaveras County – Mark Twain
  3. Spar – Kij Johnson
  4. Incident at Owl Creek Bridge – Ambrose Bierce
  5. Single White Farmhouse – Heather Shaw
  6. Cask of Amontillado – Edgar Allen Poe
  7. The Monkey’s Paw – W.W. Jacobs
  8. Pip and the Fairies – Theodora Goss

Books and Shell by Mauro Moroni

Photo by Mauro Moroni

Shirley Jackson and The Haunting of Hill House – Favorite Quote

A friend is working on a novel right now that has elements of it that are written in homage to Shirley Jackson.  The discussion reminded me of part of “The Haunting of Hill House,” a quote/story piece that I just never really could let go of.  With that in mind, I thought I’d post it here to share.

“Eleanor looked up, surprised; the little girl was sliding back in her chair, sullenly refusing her milk, while her father frowned and her brother giggled and her mother said calmly, ‘She wants her cup of stars.’

Indeed yes, Eleanor thought; indeed, so do I; a cup of stars, of course.

‘Her little cup,’ the mother was explaining, smiling apologetically at the waitress, who was thunderstruck at the thought that the mill’s good country milk was not rich enough for the little girl. ‘It has stars in the bottom, and she always drinks her milk from it at home. She calls it her cup of stars because she can see the stars while she drinks her milk.’ The waitress nodded, unconvinced, and the mother told the little girl, ‘You’ll have your milk from your cup of stars tonight when we get home. But just for now, just to be a very good little girl, will you take a little milk from this glass?’

Don’t do it, Eleanor told the little girl; insist on your cup of stars; once they have trapped you into being like everyone else you will never see your cup of stars again; don’t do it; and the little girl glanced at her, and smiled a little subtle, dimpling, wholly comprehending smile, and shook her head stubbornly at the glass. Brave girl, Eleanor thought; wise, brave girl.”

― Shirley Jackson, The Haunting of Hill House

National African American History Month Civil Rights in America White House Event

Today, I was invited to a White House event celebrating African American History Month. What makes this even unique and historic was that it brought together advocates from both the civil rights and the disability communities; youth, providers and policymakers, in a forum focused on the intersection of race and disability. I know at some point I will have lots to say about this other than a comment about how my dog threw up at the White House (and yes, she really did), but for now, I’ll let the pictures do the talking for me.  🙂

claudia_gordon_delivers_remarks_at_last_weeks_event

Agenda of the Day

Agenda of the Day

CliftonPerezChaiFeldblumDaraBaldwinStanHolbrook

Clifton Perez, Chai Feldblum, Dara Baldwin, Stan Holbrook and…

Panel3 YouthPanel

 

You can find out some more of the details of the event from:
The White House write up of Civil Rights in America by Claudia Gordon

You can also read Jeff Rosen, Chair of the National Council on Disability’s remarks

 

Note: I also need to caption and describe these images before I forget what they’re of!